NC State beat Florida State 47-28 Saturday, earning bowl eligibility with the sixth win of the Wolfpack’s season (6-2, 3-2 ACC).
Dave Doeren’s plan against the Seminoles was to score first and establish the ground game’s presence early versus a FSU defense that allowed just 102 rushing yards per game entering the day. It was a plan that worked, as running back Reggie Gallaspy notched 106 yards himself, and Ricky Person returned from a hamstring injury too, scoring three touchdowns for NCSU.
“The look in our guys’ eyes after the first two series, we kind of knew their game plan,” Doeren said. “You saw us knocking them off the ball early. It was a pretty good sign.
“I thought we were physical at the line of scrimmage. You saw a lot of surge in the line.”
NC State rushed for 177 total yards. Jakobi Meyers had 125 receiving yards, and Ryan Finley completed 21 of 27 pass attempts for 240 yards and three touchdowns with Person, Meyers and Kelvin Harmon each catching a touchdown pass (Person also added two on the ground). Chris Dunn made four field goals for the Pack.
“Our goal is to run the ball, and we knew we were going to be able to do that,” Finley said. “We knew we needed to get after them early and put some points up. Coach told me we were going to receive if we won the toss, so that was exciting. That was our plan all along, was to start fast.”
NCSU scored on its opening drive for a 7-0 lead, Gallaspy and Person combining for 45 rushing yards of the 75-yard drive to set the tone, Person capping it with a one-yard score.
Christopher Dunn added three points on a 21-yard field goal before the end of the first quarter, and Harmon’s eight-yard touchdown reception made it 17-0 with more than 11 minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Florida State scored all three of its touchdowns on passes as James Blackman completed 29 of 46 attempts for 421 yards. The first two of the Noles scoring drives were quick trips to the end zone. Florida State’s first long strike was a 40-yard pass from Blackmon to Tamorrion Terry, then the pair put the visiting Noles on the board with a 35-yard pass on the next snap, that made it 17-7 with 9:26 to play in the first half.
Doeren said Monday that pass defense was the biggest area of emphasis for the Pack, which allowed a combined 860 passing yards versus No. 2 Clemson and No. 2 Syracuse. In giving up more than 400 yards again, the head coach said he believed that the pass defense had improved in one area (the play of the nickels), and it had not improved in others.
“I thought we gave up too many big plays at corner,” he said. “(Tamorrion Terry) made too many plays on us. Does (pass defense) need to get better? Absolutely. We’ll continue to work to get it better.”
“But if we’re plus-two in turnover margin, and you can’t run the football against us, and we just limit the big plays, we’re going to score enough points to win football games.”
The Wolfpack preserved its reputation versus the run, allowing just 24 yards on 20 carries. James Smith-Williams recovered the lone fumble in the game, and Larrell Murchison intercepted Blackman as the defense won the turnover battle.
Dunn made his second field goal with five minutes left in the first half for a 20-7 lead, and Person added his second TD on NC State’s next drive.
Then with less than two minutes remaining in the second quarter, FSU connected on passes of 32, 17 and 19 yards on its way to the end zone in 48 seconds to make it 27-14 at the break.
Dunn made his third FG for a 30-14 lead with the first score of the second half. Meyers’ two-yard touchdown reception gave NC State a 37-14 lead as a pair of pass interference calls on FSU (part of the total penalties called on the Noles in the game) helped the Pack toward the goal line.
Red zone offense will be another focus for the Wolfpack in the final full month of the season. The Pack scored on all eight trips to the red zone, but wants more than half of those to be touchdowns. However, there is an agreement that the kicking game’s improvement is not taken for granted.
“Shoot, Chris goes 4-for-4 like that, it’s awesome that we have that weapon,” Finley said.
The slowest scoring drive (2:24) by the Pack’s opponent was aided by an 18-yard and a 37-yard completion before a 10-yard score ended the drive, making the score 37-21 with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Person caught a two-yard TD pass for the first score of the fourth quarter for a 44-21 lead, then Dunn added his fourth field goal of the night to make it 47-21.
The Pack rushed for a combined 172 yards in its two losses this season, but beat that mark in ending the streak and preserving the perfect home record this season.
Blackman connected with D.J. Matthews for a 31-yard touchdown pass with 40 seconds remaining, breaking the NCSU fourth-quarter shutout.
“It’s not very often that you beat Florida State two years in a row,” Doeren said. “It just doesn’t happen a lot for anybody.”
NC State hosts Wake Forest Thursday night.
Source: The Associated Press