In a game that provided almost everything you normally wouldn’t see, the NC State Wolfpack were able to prevail and snatch away a 36-29 victory on the road over Syracuse in the Carrier Dome Saturday afternoon.
Inside The Numbers:
Wolfpack quarterback turned in a career day with 313 passing yards on 23 completions for four touchdowns – all career highs. NC State receiver Thayer Thomas again showed why he is one of the more underrated receivers in the ACC, with a fantastic outing – 9 catches for 102 yards and 3 touchdown receptions. Carey Angeline followed with 86 receiving yards, while Ricky Person led the Pack in the rushing department with 67 yards on 17 carries. Rex Culpepper led a Syracuse offense that was all but shut down on the run side, but saw the quarterback throw for 254 yards and two scores. Receiver Taj Harris had a stellar game with a game-leading 146 receiving yards on 13 receptions.
Syracuse took the opening kickoff past midfield and picked up a first down with the help of an NC State penalty. The Wolfpack would later force an Orange punt. The Wolfpack’s first drive would be riddled with penalties from both squads before NC State punched it in from six yards out to take a 7-0 lead. That lead would last all but seven seconds as Trebor Pena took the ensuing kickoff 98 yards to tie the game at seven all. NC State responded with a 10 play series that resulted in Bailey Hockman fumbling at the goal line which was ruled a touchback taking points off the board.
After the State turnover, Syracuse answered driving the ball inside the Wolfpack 30, but would get stopped on 3rd and 1 which leading to a 45-yard field goal to put the Orange ahead 10-7 with 13:40 left in the half. Hockman would be picked off on the following drive by the Orange who lead the NCAA in takeaways. The turnover set the Orange up with 1st and goal at the five. The Wolfpack defense would stand tall, holding Syracuse to another field goal – putting them ahead 13-7. After both teams traded punts, NC State retook the lead with a 15-yard pass to Thayer Thomas with 6:05 left in the quarter. Syracuse would put together their best drive of the half with Rex Culpepper finding a wide-open Nykeim Johnson for a 60-yard pass to put the Orange back on top 20-14 with 3:23 before the break. Syracuse added a safety in a weird turn of events as Hockman threw the ball away in the end zone after a bad kick return, pinning the Wolfpack deep. Things would finally settle down as Syracuse took a 22-14 lead into halftime.
Bam Knight started the half off with a 44-yard kickoff return, setting the Wolfpack up with good field position to start. It took the Wolfpack just six plays to score with Hockman placing the ball only where Thayer Thomas could catch it for a 31-yard touchdown pass. State went for two and came up empty, making the score 22-20 in favor of the Orange. Syracuse found a groove on offense, driving six plays in 43 yards to make the score 29-20 after Culpepper found Harris from 13 yards out with 5:49 left in the quarter. State got a quick response with help from a big gain from Hockman to Devin Carter that setup Hockman to Thomas for their third scoring connection of the day – trimming the Orange lead to 29-27. The quarter would end with the same score.
A quick Syracuse three and out to end the third gave NC State decent field position. Hockman would again make the Orange pay, delivering an amazing pass to Emeka Emezie from 26 yards out to give the Pack the 33-29 lead after an unsuccessful two-point try with 14:14 left. After a series of three and outs, NC State was able to add a 32-yard field goal from Chris Dunn to extend their lead to 36-29 with 5:20 left. Syracuse would get one last shot to tie, driving all the way down to the NC State nine-yard line before taking a sack on third down and doing the unthinkable – spiking the ball on what was fourth down to end a chaotic game from the beginning allowing NC State to escape with the win.
The Wolfpack return to action on December 5 as they host Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale.