For those who wondered how N.C. State would handle a big win over Florida State, here’s the answer:
Wolfpack 33, Syracuse 25.
A week after upsetting the Seminoles, the Wolfpack put together another solid team game that had some blemishes but was good enough Saturday in improving its ACC record to 2-0 for the first time since 2006.
The Pack (4-1) took a 26-7 lead at halftime, weathered Syracuse’s attempt at a comeback in the third quarter, and made the plays necessary in the fourth to finish off the Orange (2-3, 0-1 ACC).
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“It was a good win for our team,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said. “It wasn’t pretty in the second half at all, but it hasn’t been done in 11 years at State, to be 2-0 in the ACC. But we got there, and I’m happy about it.”
Orange quarterback Eric Dungey, a quick thrower and fiery competitor, completed some throws in passing for 385 yards and wide receiver Ervin Phillips had 17 catches for 188 yards. But the Pack defense was good enough against the Orange’s fast-tempo attack, getting an early interception from Johnathan Alston and twice stopping Syracuse on fourth-down plays in the Orange red zone.
Dungey’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Steve Ishmael, the nation’s leading receiver, and a two-point conversion run by Dungey pulled the Orange within 33-25 with 4:39 left in the fourth quarter. But the Pack recovered an onside kick, then converted a fourth-down play on a short run by quarterback Ryan Finley.
The Pack, which hosts Louisville on Thursday, was effective in limiting the Syracuse offense in the opening half. The Wolfpack held the ball for almost 20 minutes and had 350 total yards in the first half, getting rushing touchdowns from Jaylen Samuels and Reggie Gallaspy II and Finley’s 20-yard TD throw to Stephen Louis.
“We wanted to get on them early,” Louis said. “We knew that if we got on them early it would make it tough on them. We wanted to get them out of their comfort zone.”
The Pack lost running back Dakwa Nichols to a knee injury late in the first quarter that Doeren said was season-ending and would require surgery. But that appeared to further inspire N.C. State’s Samuels and Gallaspy. Both scored with strong, tackle-breaking runs after the Nichols injury.
Nyheim Hines rushed for 90 of his 115 yards in the first half as the Pack finished with 256 yards rushing and 206 passing.
“The job their offensive line did on our defensive line, to rush for the yards they rushed for, was absolutely amazing,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. “My hat goes off to coach Doeren. That was a physical football team. They beat us physically.”
Carson Wise had field goals of 26 and 48 yards – the second his longest of the season – but missed a 31-yarder in the final seconds of the half that would have given the Pack a bigger lead.
Ishmael had one grab for 13 yards in the first half although Dungey passed for 177 yards. Phillips had eight catches for 106 yards in the half.
Ishmael had a 38-yard catch-and-run on the Orange’s first possession of the second half, setting up a short Dungey TD run – his second of the game – that pulled Syracuse within 26-14.
Another Syracuse drive ended with a 38-yard field goal by Sterling Hofrichter, making it a 26-17 game as tempers began to flare on both teams. The Pack had just 23 yards in the third quarter and ran 11 plays to Syracuse’s 29.
A scrambling third-down run by Finley, soon followed by a short TD run by Hines, boosted the Pack’s lead to 33-17 in the fourth quarter.