College Football in the Carolinas
Expanded Week 5 coverage across NC and SC
There would be no Clemson hangover for N.C. State.
But, boy, did the Wolfpack have fans on the edge of their seats inside Carter-Finley Stadium against Louisiana Tech. Jakeen Harris picked off Austin Kendall in the end zone on the final play of the game, sealing the 34-27 victory.
No. 23 N.C. State was coming off the biggest win of the Dave Doeren era last week, and there were whispers of a letdown with the overlooked Bulldogs coming to town. Louisiana Tech was no pushover and made the Wolfpack faithful sweat a little bit.
Louisiana Tech pulled to within one score twice in the fourth quarter, both on touchdown passes from veteran Austin Kendall, who was a game-time decision.
N.C. State (4-1) led the Bulldogs by seven with 12:05 remaining after Kendall threw his second touchdown of the night, a 23-yard strike to Bub Means. This came after the Wolfpack took a comfortable 14-point lead with 3:02 remaining in the third quarter. But the Bulldogs answered quickly, covering 68 yards in five plays.
But N.C. State countered, knocking almost five minutes off the clock, ending with a 4-yard Zonovan Knight touchdown run. Knight carried the ball five times for 37 yards on the drive. He finished with 85 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Kendall threw his third score of the night, this time to Griffin Hebert, making it a seven-point game with 4:43 remaining. After La. Tech (2-3) forced a three-and-out, Kendall went back to work, starting at the 11-yard line with 2:56 remaining. Kendall moved the Bulldogs to midfield and fumbled at the 50. La. Tech recovered and on the next play he hit Smoke Harris for a gain of 13, but not enough for the first down. After a false start set up fourth-and-10, Kendall picked up 12 with his legs. He picked up another 8 with his legs, setting the Bulldogs up at the 22 with five seconds remaining.
The Wolfpack coaches had been saying all week how good the Louisiana Tech offense was, calling it the best they’ve seen all season. The Bulldogs did just enough in the first half to prove them right. La. Tech outgained the Wolfpack by 20 yards. N.C. State gave up two 70-plus scoring drives and barely escaped the half with a three-point lead.
Christopher Dunn connected on two field goals (36, 29) in the second quarter. Devin Leary hit Christopher Toudle on a 6-yard score for the only Wolfpack touchdown in the first half.
Louisiana Tech tied the score at 7 with a Kendall to Jacob Adams touchdown pass and again at 10 on a Jacob Barnes’ 21-yard field goal.
N.C. State’s best drive of the first half covered 91 yards in 10 plays, ending with the Leary touchdown pass, but the Bulldogs defense had the Pack offense figured out, forcing four three-and-outs.
What did we learn about the Wolfpack?
Run, Wolfpack, run
Once N.C. State committed to the run game, it opened up things for the offense. The Wolfpack had 38 yards on the ground at the half, but decided to ride the legs of Ricky Person and Knight to start the third quarter.
N.C. State picked up 70 yards on the ground between the duo, and it paid off on consecutive scoring drives. Person ran around, past and over the Bulldogs for a 24-yard touchdown to make it 20-10. On the next offensive possession, Knight carried the ball three times for 38 yards. That opened up things through the air as Leary connected with C.J. Riley for a 5-yard touchdown to make it a two-score game. N.C. State rushed for 88 yards in the third quarter. Person led the team with 90 yards on 15 carries.
Thankful for Trent Gill
While the N.C. State offense and defense struggled to get into any rhythm early in the game, punter Trenton Gill was consistent.
In the first half, he punted four times for 215 yards, averaging close to 50 yards per kick.
Special teams are special again
One week after Dunn missed three field goals, the N.C. State special teams unit was its saving grace. Dunn was 3 for 3 and Thayer Thomas had a 25-yard punt return to flip the field, setting up the Pack’s first touchdown of the third quarter.
The defense is human
N.C. State’s defense has come out the gate solid all season, but Louisiana Tech did crack one code. The Bulldogs were the first team this year to convert a third down in the first quarter against the Pack.
Speaking of defense
The Louisiana Tech passing offense found some holes in the Wolfpack defense all night. Kendall was able to take his time and pick his spots, throwing for 341 yards against the Wolfpack. The defensive front applied plenty of pressure, but Kendall was able to do most of his damage out of the pocket, finding receivers down the field who made the tough catches against the N.C. State defensive backs.
This story was originally published October 2, 2021 9:35 PM.