NC State

South Carolina outlasts NC State in season opener

That should put an end to the playoff talk.

Hyped up as a potential crasher of the College Football Playoff, N.C. State couldn’t even get out of the gate at 1-0.

Deebo Samuel scored three touchdowns for South Carolina, including a kickoff return on the first play of the game, to lead the Gamecocks to a 35-28 win over the Wolfpack on Saturday.

It was South Carolina’s 10th straight win over a team from the state of North Carolina and third straight over the Wolfpack.

Ryan Finley threw for a career-best 415 yards and Jaylen Samuels equaled a school-record with 15 catches, but it wasn’t enough for the Wolfpack to offset its multiple self-inflicted mistakes.

South Carolina, 6-7 a year ago, came up with the winning plays, including stopping N.C. State at the 10-yard line in the final seconds.

As many good plays as Samuel and quarterback Jake Bentley made, the Gamecocks had some help. N.C. State couldn’t get out of its own way in the first three quarters.

Three tacklers missed Samuel on the opening kickoff, a 97-yard return for a score. Safety Jarius Morehead, one of four new starters in the secondary, dropped an interception on South Carolina’s first drive.

The Gamecocks scored on that drive, a 34-yard pass on a busted coverage to Rico Dowdle, and turned a pair of N.C. State fumbles into touchdowns.

New kicker Carson Wise, brought in as a graduate transfer to upgrade the kicking game, missed a 29-yard field goal.

The offensive line, missing starting left guard Terronne Prescod (shoulder injury) and right tackle Will Richardson (suspended for violating team rules), wilted under the pressure of South Carolina’s defensive front.

N.C. State withstood the early problems behind a strong start from Finley. The junior completed 27 of 34 passes in the first half for 296 yards. His 4-yard touchdown to Jakobi Meyers with 9 seconds left in the half tied the score at 21.

South Carolina got another touchdown from Samuel, a 39-yard catch after Freddie Phillips couldn’t corral quarterback Jake Bentley for a sack.

A Finley fumble at his own 14-yard line set up another score by Dowdle and a 35-21 advantage after three quarters.

A 1-yard touchdown catch by Samuels, on fourth down, pulled N.C. State within 35-28 with 12:21 left in the fourth quarter.

An interception by senior cornerback Johnathan Alston, in his first start on defense, gave the Wolfpack the ball back, but South Carolina’s defense forced a punt.

N.C. State had three chances to tie the score in the fourth quarter but couldn’t.

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938