by Mike Potter
CARTER-FINLEY STADIUM/RALEIGH The Wolfpack returns home tonight to a sold-out game it should win, but it’s against a very unusual opponent.
That of course has a major asterisk on it, as the Jaguars are 19-0 in two-plus seasons of football as they move from having no football in 2008 to full-fledged FBS membership in the Sun Belt Conference. USA is technically an FCS member this season.
Most of the legal gambling establishments don’t have this one on the board because of the uncertainty involved, although one did have the Wolfpack a 24 ½-point favorite
State is the first FBS member team the Jaguars have ever played, although they’ll visit Kent State next week. It’s the first of a three-game contract between the schools, as the Jaguars will visit here next season and State will be the season opener for USA.
The Wolfpack doesn't apply the knockout punch until the closing minutes and gives the Jaguars their historic first loss, 35-13.
The Wolfpack scores on its first possession, going 54 yards in nine plays with James Washington going in from a yard out and Niklas Sade adding the boot.
The Jaguars respond late in the first quarter, on Jordan Means’ school-record 46-yard field goal at 2:02.
State adds another touchdown with 12:43 left in the half as Mike Glennon hits fullback Taylor Gentry from a yard out and Sade’s boot makes it 14-3.
Glennon found Gentry again from five yards out with 10:50 left in the third to help make it 21-3, but the Jaguars respond on Demetre Baker’s eight-yard run at 8:05 to chop it to 21-10.
State gets some breathing room on an 18-yard pass from Glennon to Curtis Underwood with 1:14 left in the period and it’s 28-10.
The Wolfpack gets a lift when the defense forces Means to kick a 36-yard field goal with 6:48 left, then puts it away with 4:03 remaining when Glennon connects with T.J. Graham on a 67-yard bomb.
Glennon is 17-for-20 for 274 yards and four TDs with no interceptions. Graham catches five passes for 128 yards. Washington rushes for 54 on 16 carries and adds 51 yards on three catches.
Kendall Houston carries 18 times for 117 yards for USA, while C.J. Bennett completes 17 of 32 for 182 yards with two interceptions.
They said it …
State coach Tom O’Brien: “Some teams aren’t pretty and we certainly aren’t a pretty team, but we found a way to get it done. We’ve got a quick turnaround (before the game at Cincinnati) and so our goal is to get ourselves rested and get ready to play Thursday night. … (Mike Glennon) is a good quarterback, no question about it. We still tried to run the football even though they’ve got nine guys within five yards of the line of scrimmage most of the time. We had a chance to beat some people (with the pass) and we were able to do it.”
USA coach Joey Jones: “Being our 20th game, I thought we played really well. I’m proud of the way we played. We needed to play a perfect game with no mistakes, and the mistakes we made we can fix.
Glennon: “Every time out I’m getting more comfortable being in a game atmosphere. I knew coming into this season it would be an adjustment, and I think I’m getting better at handling the situation. We took what the defense gave us, and a lot of the time the running backs were the only open receivers we had. (Halfbacks) James Washington and Curtis Underwood both did a good job.”
What does it all mean?
That the Wolfpack is certainly good enough to get convincing wins against FCS teams at home, and that South Alabama is probably better than it should be.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Glennon’s 67-yard TD pass to Gentry.
State leads 1-0.
State: Won 1.
USA: Lost 1.
State at Cincinnati, Thursday, 8 p.m.
USA at Kent State, Sept. 24, 2:30 p.m.