Monk also made a play that gave the Heels a chance to take a lead early in the game—one they would never relinquish. The senior defensive captain hit State's Sterling Hicks just as he caught a Philip Rivers pass at the Wolfpack 27 yard line, causing a fumble that Carolina safety Dexter Reid recovered with just under nine minutes remaining in the first quarter. Just four plays later, about eight minutes into the game, quarterback Darian Durant hit wide-out Kory Bailey for a 14-yard touchdown pass and the Heels never looked back.
The forced fumble by Monk was one of eight solo tackles on the day, and it was the second game in a row in which he caused a key fumble. "I've been fortunate this year to cause a few fumbles already," Monk said. "That was a big play for us."
It had been hard to notice Monk on a defense that includes All-American end Julius Peppers and the play of former walk-on David Thornton, Monk's fellow senior linebacker. Monk's recent play is making it a lot easier to realize who the leader of this defense is.
"Quincy is a great leader," said Thornton. "He and I study the game all the time. He and I on the field, we communicate with each other, we encourage each other. We just fly around to the ball and make plays."
Add a pass break-up to the forced fumble, and the Heels' second-leading tackler on the day was making plays and hitting hard. There were a number of plays in the game when the Wolfpack receivers seemed to hear Monk's footsteps and dropped the ball right before he creamed them.
"That puts it in the back of their mind," said Monk. "They might hesitate when they run their route or they might hesitate trying to catch the ball and that's a key component. When you hit somebody real hard they're going to think about it the next time they run a route and that's a big factor for us. We just wanted to make sure we stayed in their heads and let them know we were right behind them."
Senior defensive tackle Ryan Sims said Monk and the Heels were well prepared for State's underneath passing game. "Quincy knew all week if you saw hidden receivers, and you lay a lick on them, they're going to be scared," said Sims. "They're going to be afraid to come across the middle and catch that ball. And when they drop it and he still hits them, it makes them think, ‘Maybe I don't want to catch it this time.'"
"We knew we had to disrupt Rivers' passing scheme," said Monk. "We just tried to put pressure on him and make sure we hit the receivers when they caught the pass."
Peppers applied pressure all afternoon, but was credited with just one tackle for loss as the Wolfpack went away from him and right into the waiting hands of the senior linebackers. "They're great players, they're stepping up, and they're all over the field," said Peppers. "Quincy's doing a great job being a leader out there."
"I just try to keep everybody's head into the game and try to keep them emotionally hyped," said Monk. "They feed off my energy. If I'm going out there playing tough, then everybody else is going to start playing tough. If I'm flat, then the team is going to be flat. I've got to make sure I'm out there being a leader and I'm keeping my emotions high."
The way the defensive signal caller is playing of late, you might want to watch number 41 right from the snap if you want to see the play being made. Don't settle for just seeing him show his emotions after the fact.