It seemed unlikely at the time, after coach Tom O'Brien offered to help Harrison Beck transfer to another school.
But after Beck decided to stay, O'Brien said N.C. State might need him at some point this season. O'Brien had no idea just how quickly the Wolfpack would turn to Beck to rejuvenate its struggling offense.
Beck came off the sideline to cheers Saturday afternoon and used his strong arm to revive N.C. State in a 34-24 win over William & Mary at Carter-Finley Stadium, completing a remarkable turnaround.
He took over for faltering senior Daniel Evans and passed for 246 yards and two touchdowns in a little over two quarters. With N.C. State ahead just 7-0 late in the second quarter, Beck lofted a 22-yard scoring pass to Jarvis Williams, creating a possible difficult quarterback decision for O'Brien.
Russell Wilson, who won the starting job during the preseason, dressed Saturday but suffered a Grade 3 concussion nine days earlier at South Carolina and did not play.
Evans, a senior, had a miserable day in his 18th career start as it took N.C. State 28 minutes, 40 seconds to gain a first down. Evans was 4-for-11 for 12 yards and badly overthrew tight end Matt Kushner on an interception on the third play from scrimmage.
Beck replaced Evans and played with a flair N.C. State had lacked. Some of his passes were dangerous and might have been intercepted if the Wolfpack was playing against better defensive backs.
But the N.C. State receivers who seemingly couldn't get open for Evans made big plays on Beck's throws. Williams made the catch in the end zone on a pass that could have been intercepted.
Freshman T.J. Graham raced free to bobble and then grab a 47-yard pass, setting up a 1-yard scoring throw to tight end George Bryan.
Beck, who started four games last season, isn't as fast as Wilson and lacks Evans' experience. But at 17-for-25 for 246 yards with two touchdown passes, Beck posted statistics that would have made Philip Rivers proud except for a fourth-quarter interception that Derek Cox returned 45 yards for a
Now O'Brien might have a difficult decision to make heading into the Sept. 13 game at Clemson, whether Wilson is ready to return or not.
Along with Justin Burke, Beck was one of the first two players out of N.C. State's five-man preseason race for the starting quarterback position. The other, Justin Burke, accepted O'Brien's offer of help with a transfer and moved on to Louisville.
Beck, a junior who had started four games last season, had fewer options because he already had transferred from Nebraska. That was a good thing for the Wolfpack, because it desperately needed Beck on Saturday evening.
Staff photo by Ethan Hyman