Saturday, September 11, 2010

Running early, defense throughout saves NC State and some ACC pride

On a day that saw Virginia Tech being upset by James Madison, Georgia Tech losing to unheralded Kansas, Florida State being humiliated by Oklahoma and Miami falling to Ohio State, the Wolfpack of N.C. State held some honor for the ACC with a 28-21 victory at the University of Central Florida.

A surprisingly effective running game early and a big-play defense that came up with five turnovers throughout led to State's victory in a game that wasn't really close or in doubt until the last five minutes of the game.

The Wolfpack ran out to a 21-0 lead and still led 28-7 going into the fourth quarter.

The defense set up the first touchdown when sophomore safety Earl Wolff intercepted a Rob Calabrese pass and ran it back 31 yards into UCF territory. Eight plays later, Dean Haynes, a redshirt freshman converted to tailback, got a good block from guard Andrew Wallace - a 6-foot-4, 304-pound redshirt sophmore - and busted in untouched from four yards out.

State QB Russell Wilson, who didn't have the big numbers we've seen so often, did thrown four straight completions on the next drive, including a 26-yard TD lob to a wide open Darrell Davis.

A muffed punt gave the Wolfpack the ball deep in UCF territory and runningback Mustafa Greene sliced up the middle on a draw play on third and long and went 21 yards for the score to make it 21-0.

UCF's Quincy McDuffie took the ensuring kickoff back 93 yards to give the home team some life as the teams went into the halftime lockerroom at 21-7.

In the third quarter, State seemingly wrapped it up when cornerback C.J. Wilson picked off an overthrown Calabrese pass and ran it in from 43 yards out to make it 28-7.

Midway through the third quarter, short and speedy backup quarterback Jeff Godfrey came in with fresh legs and gave the tiring Wolfpack defense a fit. He passed for 107 yards and ran for 52, including two touchdowns to make the game close.

The second score came with 4:29 left and the fired-up defense held the Pack on four downs and UCF got the ball back with less than three minutes to go.

Godfrey moved UCF into Wolfpack territory and completed a 21-yard pass to Quincy McDuffie at the State 10 yard line, but the defense came through once again for the final time of the night. Safety Brandan Bishop popped the ball loose with a jarring tackle and linebacker Terrell Manning fell on it to wrap up the victory.

Random Thoughts: At least twice, State linebacker Audie Cole changed momentum. Once he made a nice diving catch to intercept on a halfback pass to stop a drive. Earlier he ended another drive with a big sack. He also had double-digit tackles.

Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, serving as the color commentator on TV, made the "duh" observation of the game when, with less than five minutes to play and UCF down by 14 points, he said, "UCF needs a score on this drive."

A horrible shanked punt by State's Jeff Ruiz with less than three minutes to play gave the Knights the ball at the Wolfpack 49 on that last drive that made the game more exciting than it needed to be.

Wilson completed only 10 of 30 passes for 105 yards. State rushed for 134 rushing yards, led by Greene's 55 yards. UCF, with the late rush under Godfrey, actually outgained the Pack.

N.C. State, which was 114th last year in turnover margin, did not turn the ball over once while UCF turned it over five times. The State defense hit hard and really controlled the game except during two fourth-quarter drives.

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