The NC State football team fell 31-30 to the Miami Hurricanes in a thrilling game for the team’s first ACC loss on Saturday, Oct. 23 in Miami, Florida.
The Wolfpack (5-2, 2-1 ACC) came back from a 14-3 deficit and traded blows with the Hurricanes (3-4, 1-2 ACC) in a back-and-forth second half, but it was unable to pull out the win.
“Obviously very emotional, disappointed,” said head coach Dave Doeren. “Gotta give Miami credit. We didn’t make the plays we needed to make that we’ve been making. We helped [Miami].”
After NC State came up empty-handed on the game’s first drive, Miami got the scoring started on a 25-yard passing play for a touchdown with 10:50 left in the first quarter to make the score 7-0. The Pack answered later in the quarter with a field goal by junior kicker Chris Dunn to make the score 7-3. With the field goal, Dunn became NC State’s all-time career scoring leader.
The Canes cashed in on the opening drive of the second quarter on a 53-yard pass play for a touchdown to make the score 14-3. The Pack answered on the following drive as redshirt sophomore quarterback Devin Leary threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Thayer Thomas to make the score 14-10.
Just before halftime, the Pack went 77 yards in three plays and 32 seconds on a drive that was capped off by another touchdown from Leary to Thomas, this time for 27 yards, giving the Pack the lead 17-14 heading into halftime.
Miami scored on the opening drive of the second half to go back up 21-17. On the ensuing drive, NC State was forced to punt. A crazy play unfolded in which the Miami returner muffed a punt by redshirt junior punter Trent Gill, regained possession, then fumbled again as the ball was picked by NC State. However, the ball was awarded to Miami as it was determined that an NC State player lost his helmet and continued playing, wiping out excellent starting field position for the Pack.
“It was a crazy play,” Doeren said. “An unfortunate chain of events right there, because that was obviously huge momentum our way if his helmet stays on.”
Later in the third, Dunn knocked in a 44-yard field goal to cut the lead to 21-20. On the ensuing drive, the Canes were able to get all the way down to the goal line, but the NC State defense was able to get a stop and force a field goal to put Miami up 24-20.
On the ensuing NC State drive, the Pack was able to move the ball down the field thanks in large part to a fake punt run by redshirt sophomore running back Trent Pennix, a Raleigh native and graduate of Sanderson High School. The drive was capped off by a 17-yard rushing touchdown by Leary to put the Pack back in front 27-24 at the start of the fourth quarter.
Miami then answered with a touchdown of its own on a four-yard passing play to retake the lead 31-27. On the following NC State drive, the Pack scored on a 40-yard field goal by Dunn, which bounced in off the upright to make the score 31-30.
The NC State defense was able to get a stop on the next Miami drive, forcing a punt and getting the ball at the NC State 45-yard line. However, the Pack went three-and-out, unable to connect on three pass plays, including a costly drop by redshirt sophomore wide receiver Devin Carter.
“We didn’t really execute a lot this game,” Leary said. “I think that was a certain play that we didn’t execute that we would have liked to. [Carter] was pretty hard on himself. I went right over to the sideline, went up to him and told him, ‘Hey, we need you. We still need your energy, we still need your spirit. You’re a leader on this team.’”
The Pack turned the ball over on downs with 2:49 left in the game, and this time the NC State defense was unable to get a stop as the Hurricanes ran out the clock and clinched their first conference win of the season.
Earlier in the week, Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke drew attention for comments he made about the NC State defense, saying “I don’t think they can stop us.” He proved to be right as he threw for 325 yards and four touchdowns.
The NC State defense was dealt a tough blow early in the game as redshirt junior linebacker Isaiah Moore, one of the team’s most vocal leaders, exited the game due to injury. There were many plays the Pack could look back on that went in the wrong direction, but it is important the team moves on and learns from its mistakes without letting them get inside their heads.
“I think when you start thinking about stuff like that, that’s when your season goes south,” said sophomore linebacker Drake Thomas. “It’s over. You can’t change it now. What happened, happened.”
While the loss is disappointing, NC State still controls its own destiny in the ACC Atlantic. For now, the Pack must regroup as it returns to Raleigh to host Louisville on Saturday, Oct. 30 at Carter-Finley Stadium. The game will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on ACC Network.