by Joe Schwartz
CARTER-FINLEY STADIUM/RALEIGH - George Costanza would've been proud of the N.C. State Wolfpack on Saturday night as they crushed Murray State 65-7.
For the balding down-on-his luck Jew it was no more tuna on toast, and a new day with chicken salad on white bread, untoasted. For the Wolfpack, Instead of fumbling on the first offensive play as they did against South Carolina, they recovered a fumble on Murray State's first play. Instead of an anemic offense that put up 3 points and 133 total yards, they scored on every possession. Instead of a sellout and a national television audience, there was no TV broadcast and a stadium that cleared out by halftime. But could you blame them?
Name a record and there's a chance N.C. State achieved it against their Football Championship Subdivision foes. They had 45 points at halftime, the most the most since 2001. The 65 on the board at the final whistle were the most of O'Brien's coaching career and as many as the Wolfpack have scored since 1920. Quarterback Russell WIlson had a career-high four touchdown passes — at halftime. He also passed former Buffalo signal-caller Drew Willy for second place all-time in most consecutive passes without an interception with 293 attempts. He's just 32 short of Andre Woodson's record.
It was exactly what they needed to build some confidence after last week.
"It seems like it took us a long time to play again after the South Carolina game," N.C. State Head Coach Tom O'Brien said. "Certainly we think we made some improvements but we have a lot more to go. We understand that more of the teams we're going to play in this league are like South Carolina than like Murray State."
The N.C. State defense has been remarkable no matter who they were playing. The Racers put up 66 points last week in seven different ways (passing, running, kicking, recovering, sacking and returning both a punt and a kickoff), and were absolutely dominated by a bigger, better Wolfpack team.
Leroy Burgess fell on the opening fumble and recovered another on Murray State's second drive. That set the tone for a night where N.C. State only gave up 36 yards of offense (-2 at halftime) and five first downs.
"It was a team effort," said Burgess, admitting that he'll probably get a ribbing for trying to return the second fumble for a TD before bobbling it and falling on it. "Tuesday we went to work. When you do hard work and practice what you preach, good things happen."
They happened in bunches. The Wolfpack scored on their first 10 possessions, the only blemish being an extra point attempt that hit the upright. That came from backup kicker Carl Ojala as starter Josh Czajkoski's leg was worn out from all the action.
Perhaps best of all for the team was that running back Toney Baker found the endzone three times (twice running), and the first time in three years. He looked strong and agile after missing most of the last two seasons with two knee surgeries.
His last score came on a 4th and 17 play when Wilson dumped the ball off and Baker turned it up field for a 37-yard touchdown.
Asked if he expected the performance, Baker replied, "I kind of did."
"Really it's just great for me to get in the end zone. It's been a long time since I crossed the plane." Yeah, 1,022 days to be expect.
Veteran defensive end Willie Young, who caused the first fumble, said he's pleased that Baker rebounded from his fumble against South Carolina.
"He made it clear that would never happen again. He's got the jitters out," he said. "I the the old Toney Baker I saw two years ago."
The Wolfpack face Garner-Webb (2-0) next week at Carter-Finley Stadium.