N.C. State's Jeff Rieskamp (99), Terrell Manning (35) and David Akinniyi (97) stop Georgia Tech's Joshua Nesbitt (9). ETHAN HYMAN - firstname.lastname@example.org
ATLANTA – Facing its biggest challenge yet, N.C. State’s defense never flinched this afternoon.
Georgia Tech’s flexbone offense was averaging 32 points per game, but was held scoreless for the first 27 minutes. Terrell Manning and David Akinniyi recovered fumbles, and Russell Wilson threw for a career-high 368 yards as N.C. State won 45-28 at Bobby Dodd Stadium, improving to 4-0 for the first time since 2002.
N.C. State’s defense, which allowed 31.2 points per game last season, entered the game allowing an average of 15.7 this season, but faced spread offenses in its first three games.
Playing against Georgia Tech and the triple option largely took away the ability to blitz that had carried N.C. State in its first three games. Forced to play assignment football, though, the Wolfpack continued to shine.
The Yellow Jackets managed just seven first downs over the first three quarters, and quarterback Joshua Nesbitt didn’t complete a pass until late in the third quarter as N.C. State built a 31-14 lead.
Jerrard Tarrant returned Wilson’s first interception of the season 33 yards for a score as Georgia Tech cut the lead to 31-28 with 12:05 remaining. But Wilson answered with a 23-yard scoring pass to T.J. Graham on third-and-11.
Down 10 with 8:31 left, a Georgia Tech offense built for the run rather than the pass didn’t have the ability to come back.
Aside from the interception by Tarrant, Wilson had a nearly flawless performance. He was 28-for-41, threw for three touchdowns and ran 6 yards for another score. He eclipsed his previous career high for passing yards of 349, set last season at Florida State.
Georgia Tech’s only score of the first half came on an 80-yard drive that culminated in a 10-yard touchdown run by Owen Smith late in the second quarter.
Aside from that drive, Georgia Tech managed just 57 yards on 22 plays before halftime..
N.C. State posted a 265-137 yardage advantage but had only a 10-point lead to show for it because of the Wolfpack’s failures in scoring position. On its first three trips inside the Georgia Tech 20-yard line, N.C. State’s offense managed only a 36-yard field goal from Josh Czajkowski, who missed two 31-yard attempts.
Wolfpack sophomore Asa Watson blocked a punt that Jarvis Williams grabbed at the 1-yard line and carried into the end zone for the game’s first score. After Smith cut the Wolfpack lead to 10-7, Wilson directed a 69-yard scoring drive.
Steven Howard kept a toe in bounds for a 21-yard touchdown catch from Wilson 22 seconds before halftime, and the Wolfpack went to the locker room ahead 10 points.
Wilson was 16-for-23 for 219 yards passing in the first half, but was sacked three times.
Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt ran 61 yards on the opening play of the second half to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Roddy Jones, and the Yellow Jackets trailed just 17-14. But Wilson answered by going 5-for-5 for 60 yards, hitting Williams for 5 yards and a touchdown and running 6 yards for another score and a 31-14 advantage.
N.C. State, which has struggled in the fourth quarter all season, let Georgia Tech right back in the game. Four Wolfpack defenders missed tackles on a 50-yard Nesbitt pass to fullback Anthony Allen. Two plays later, Tyler Melton caught a 32-yard scoring pass from Nesbitt on a mix-up in the N.C. State secondary.
On N.C. State’s next drive, Wilson threw his first interception of the season, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Jerrard Tarrant grabbed Wilson’s floating pass and returned 33 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, N.C. State led just 31-28.
But Wilson lofted a pass that Graham grabbed in the end zone with 8:31 remaining, and the Wolfpack survived.