In the last four weeks or so, ever since NC State’s 4 game skid began, the defense and special teams has been under heavy scrutiny. However, this all changed on Saturday, when the Wolfpack defense held Syracuse to a mere 38 rushing yards on 37 carries, while throwing in 8 sacks in the win. The defense contributed the turning point of the game, when Pharoah McKever, a WR turned defensive back, returned an interception 82 yards for a touchdown, giving State a 17-14 lead over the Orange. The kicking game was strong for NC State as well, as Nikolas Sade was 3-3 on field goal attempts and gave his team a 9-0 lead early in the game. Special teams played their part for State also. Punter Wil Baumann was called upon 8 times for NC State, and landed 4 of those inside the 20 yard line, which kept Syracuse from having great field position all game.
The Wolfpack were not able to sustain a full drive long enough to score a touchdown at the beginning of the game, as three drives resulted in only three points. The momentum seemed to shift to the Orange when AJ Long threw for a touchdown going into the half, then on the first possession after halftime, which gave Syracuse a 14-9 lead. When Syracuse got the ball back again in the third quarter, it seemed as if they were going to score another touchdown, for a third straight possession. They made it to the redzone, and a score seemed imminent until McKever picked off Long for his first ever INT, and first touchdown. The momentum turned towards the Wolfpack, and it stayed on their side for the remainder of the game. Late in the fourth quarter, Jacoby Brissett threw a swing pass to the outside which was taken 18 yards and into the endzone by Shadrach Thornton, one of State’s key offensive playmakers. NC State took a 24-14 lead, and closed out the game with a 24-17 victory.
NC State’s defense came out strong, and stifled the Syracuse ground game throughout the victory. AJ Long was forced to throw a lot, and attempted some difficult throws. He ended the game 22-42 for 307 yards and 2 TDs, while also throwing 2 INTs, part of three total turnovers by Syracuse. Meanwhile, Jacoby Brissett and NC State were able to control the offense well, as the Junior QB was 20-32 on the day, throwing for 186 yards and a touchdown, without a turnover. In what was a very evenly played game all day, NC State harnessed some momentum and played their way to the first ACC win on the season.
Key Stats –
Rushing Yards: NC State 121, Syracuse 38
Turnovers: NC State 0, Syracuse 3
Time of Possession: NC State 31:18, Syracuse 28:42