The NC State Wolfpack held on to defeat the Syracuse Orange 16-10 in a lackluster offensive performance on both sides of the ball for its first ACC and Power Five win of the season.
In a game that saw 10 of the Wolfpack’s 16 points come off of kicking, and the only touchdown resulting from a trick play with redshirt sophomore receiver Thayer Thomas throwing to a wide-open running back, the defense was able to hold the line despite the offense’s continued struggles in the red zone.
“We’re just not able to run the football down there so it forces you to throw,” said head coach Dave Doeren. “We gotta get better throwing the ball in the red zone. It’s harder when you get more and more guys in the box, obviously, against your run game. Last year Ryan [Finley], Kelvin [Harmon], Jakobi [Meyers] could take advantage of people when they were able to stop the run, so we gotta get there. We need to improve.”
While the Wolfpack defense put up a clinic in the first half, holding Syracuse to zero points in the first and second quarters, the Pack’s offense let them down going 2 for 7 on third-down conversions and having to kick a field goal twice.
The Pack’s defense combined for five first-half sacks and eight total and held the Cuse to only 41 rushing yards on 37 carries. Syracuse also went 5 for 16 on third-down conversions, further showcasing the stellar defensive performance by NC State.
“We keep doing that. It’s amazing we don’t get takeaways hitting the quarterback as much as we are,” Doeren said. “I don’t understand that, but we got to figure that piece out. Pressure on the quarterback has been consistent and it’s a good rotation into it.”
The only touchdown seen in the first half came in final minutes. Freshman running back Zonovan Knight led the Wolfpack in the last two minutes of the half down the field on back-to-back carries with each being over 10 yards. The series was then capped off by a double-throw, first to Thomas who then found redshirt freshman running back Trent Pennix wide open for an easy 32-yard touchdown.
With the completion, Thomas sits only one touchdown behind all other NC State quarterbacks combined for most touchdown passes this season, a troubling sign for the current carousel of quarterbacks Doeren has employed.
While redshirt sophomore transfer Bailey Hockman played the majority of the game, going 16 for 27 with 205 passing yards and one interception, redshirt freshman Devin Leary got to put together one drive in the first half that saw an impressive first throw for 23 yards, but that ultimately fell flat with a dropped ball and incomplete pass to end Leary’s day.
In the second half, each team exchanged field goals in the third quarter, but it was still NC State controlling the flow of play even despite its inability to get the ball upfield. It was only truly due to the complete effort of the defense that allowed the Wolfpack to keep this game in check.
“It’s all coach Huxtable,” said junior linebacker Louis Acceus. “His crazy scheming. All these blitzes he’s drawing up. Everybody is crossing here and crossing there and somebody’s going to end up open and so that’s what happens.”
Syracuse made the game interesting late, as quarterback Tommy DeVito led a drive through the Wolfpack territory and made it a six-point game with three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Wolfpack then went three-and-out, leading to the Orange getting one last chance with 1:48 left and neither team with any timeouts. NC State defense came up big once again and Larrell Murchison ended the game with a fourth-down, walk-off sack.
“This shows we’re able to go longer,” Acceus said. “We can keep up with the team even far into the game. It shows we have that extra step to keep it going.”
In a picturesque way, the final play was reviewed to see if time had indeed fully expired. After review, the referee got on the microphone and said, “After further review, the game is over.” A fitting end to a tough win.