by Mike Potter
There’s a near-sellout crowd in the house as State hosts two-time defending Big East champion Cincinnati in an ESPN national TV game.
Cincinnati native Tom O’Brien’s Wolfpack is looking to start a season undefeated after three games for the first time since Chuck Amato’s 2002 team started 9-0.
Both teams are going on a five-day turnaround, as the Wolfpack got a nice 28-21 win at Central Florida on Saturday night while the Bearcats (1-1) blasted visiting FCS member Indiana State 40-7. O’Brien said he wasn’t happy about the quick turnaround, but here we go on a warm night anyway.
The Wolfpack makes mistakes but is dominant when it counts, rolling to a 30-19 victory.
State had shown an anemic passing game against the Knights on Saturday, but Russell Wilson has no trouble getting it going early tonight.
The Wolfpack gets it into the end zone on its second possession, going 93 yards in nine plays with Wilson hitting Jay Smith in stride toward the left corner of the end zone from 17 yards out for the score. Josh Czajkowski adds the boot and it’s 7-0 at 9:26.
And State has another 93-yard drive — this one taking just seven plays — on its next possession. Mustafa Greene finds a seam and scoots 31 yards down the right sideline for the score, and Czajkowski’s conversion makes it 14-0 at 5:21.
It stays right there among some turnover-plagued football on both sides until 3:12 remains in the first half when the Bearcats’ Zach Collaros hits D.J. Woods up the middle for a 68-yard scoring strike. Jake Rogers adds the kick and it’s 14-7.
The Wolfpack makes it 23-7 on its first possession after halftime, Czajkowski hitting a 19-yard field goal at the 8:07 mark to complete a 14-play, 71-yard drive.
State locks it up with 7:27 to go on an eight-yard TD pass from Wilson to Taylor Gentry three plays after a blocked punt gives the Wolfpack the ball at the visitors’ 25. Czajkowski’s boot makes it 30-7.
The Bearcats get on the board quickly at 6:26 on Woods’ 20-yard reception from Collaros to end a three-play, 65-yard drive. Collaros’ attempt at a conversion pass is incomplete and it stays 30-13.
And Cincinnati adds one more score with 44 seconds left on Collaros’ 13-yard pass to Marcus Barnett, but the two-point conversion attempt and the onside kick both go the Wolfpack’s way.
Wilson completes 26 of 40 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns and is not intercepted, adding 33 more yards on the ground. Jarvis Williams catches four passes for 111 yards for the Wolfpack. Greene carries 16 times for 85 yards and a touchdown, and catches five passes for 54 more yards.
Collaros completes 19 of 31 for 310 yards and three TDs, but is limited to 32 yards rushing on 22 carries as the Wolfpack sacks him five times. Woods finishes with six catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
They said it …
N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien: “I think we’re playing hard. Now we have to play smarter. We gutted it out and found a way to win. Russell played well and our receivers made plays. Our defense was pretty good too, but we gave up too many long passes tonight. I think we could be a better football team, but more importantly I think our football team knows it can be better. The good thing is we didn’t get shook up when we made mistakes.”
Cincinnati coach Butch Jones: “We made some mistakes against a very good football team. There’s a reason they’re ranked first in the ACC in total defense. (But) nobody is going to feel sorry for themselves. It’s a long football season, and we’ll be back.”
Wilson: “I still have a few things to work on with timing and rhythm, but we came out with the win and that was the most important part. It was a great team effort. We played a great team last week and a great team this week in Cincinnati. I don’t think any of the players were tired at all. I don’t think they were tired from the first quarter until the fourth quarter. They had their legs under them. It was obviously great to have a great start, get some completions and keep it moving.”
Greene: “We were mentally ready for this game and it felt good out there. We made a lot of mistakes and need to execute a lot better than what we’ve been doing. Our defense has been outstanding in the last two games. (Offensively) the line got off the ball even more than they did on UCF. And the crowd was exciting. That was a good atmosphere and that kept us going.”
What does it all mean?
That the Wolfpack is 3-0 for the first time in eight years and two of the victories have been over pretty good opponents. State is halfway to bowl eligibility. National ranking next week?
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Greene’s first-quarter touchdown run.
NCSU leads 1-0.
N.C. State: Won 4.
Cincinnati: Lost 1.
N.C. State at Georgia Tech, Sept. 25, TBA
Oklahoma at Cincinnati, Sept. 25, TBA