RALEIGH — On a day when every other FBS team in North Carolina was beaten, NC State took care of its business by manhandling UConn in a 41-10 win at Carter-Finley Stadium.
With Tobacco Road undefeated UNC, Duke and Wake Forest all suffering losses, and App State, ECU and Charlotte suffering losses, the 12th-ranked Wolfpack proved too much for the outclassed Huskies.
“I think we’re hitting a lot of cylinders that we wanted to,” coach Dave Doeren said. “I think we are well placed. There are always things that can be better, but the things I was disappointed about a week ago have been fixed in this game.
The Wolfpack immediately set the tone for the entire evening, scoring on the opener of the game when junior quarterback Devin Leary connected with graduate receiver Thayer Thomas for a 75-yard touchdown.
Leary had a solid performance, throwing for 320 yards and four touchdowns. The junior quarterback threw for more yards (149) and touchdowns (1) in the first quarter than he did in all of last week’s win over Texas Tech (121 and 0).
Leary also did a good job spreading the ball by connecting 10 different receivers. Four of them had touchdown receptions, including junior Keyon Lesane and second Porter Rooks, both of whom had their first career scores.
“I think this is the perfect time,” junior redshirt receiver Devin Carter said of the receivers starting to click with Leary. “We worked very hard in training, so every time you train on something game-related, it clicks. It just happens. I think it does honor to our practice.
Leary was not without fault, however, as he ended the first half by throwing an interception directly to a UConn defender in the middle with less than a minute to go, allowing the Huskies to kick in a goal on the field for a 31-3 Wolfpack. lead at halftime.
The interception marked the end of five straight drives for NC State and was one of two scoreless drives while Leary was in the game.
The only other drive the Wolfpack didn’t score on was a false field goal run attempt – while leading 31-3 in the third quarter – by kicker Christopher Dunn that failed and ended with Dunn in the injury tent. Dunn did not return to the game, but Doeren was unconcerned.
“He’s good,” Doeren said of Dunn’s status. “I don’t think he’s been tackled for a long time. It was good to have Collin Smith there and give him an opportunity, but Chris will be fine.
Wolfpack’s second-year running back, Demie Sumo-Karngbaye, was also poised to establish himself as the team’s top running back, rushing for 49 yards and a touchdown on four attempts, before a Upper body injury ruled him out early in the game.
“Demi is fine,” Doeren said. “He was in pain. Plan for his return. If it was a different type of game, we probably could have played it today.
For a day, the Wolfpack’s offensive woes seemed resolved, but it’s hard to gauge the state of NC State’s offense against a weak opponent who was more than a five-touchdown underdog.
NC State’s defense, however, was as good as ever, stopping two fourth-down conversion attempts and limiting the Huskies to just 39 passing yards and 121 rushing yards. The Wolfpack had two sacks, forced seven outs and didn’t allow a touchdown until less than four minutes remained in the game and the field was filled with reserves.
“I think [confidence] is really important,” junior linebacker Drake Thomas said. “We are proud of the way we play. We want to play aggressive, we want to play hard, we want to play physical, but we also like to play confident. We like to play with a bit of swagger. I think that’s the key to our defense and who we are. Going out there to make plays and three-and-out after three-and-out is a confidence booster for sure.
The Wolfpack’s offense and defense will be really challenged next week when they travel to Death Valley to take on No. 5 Clemson on Saturday in an early-season game that will establish a favorite in the ACC.
“It will be a big challenge, a big opportunity,” Doeren said. “We did the things that I wanted to improve on and there are going to be a lot of things that we have to do well to win this game, but we are delighted with this opportunity. It’s a great environment to play there and it’s going to be one hell of a game of football.