N.C. State 65, Murray State 7
By Aaron Beard
RALEIGH ó N.C. State’s offense moved at will and celebrated touchdown after touchdown. The question is whether this high-scoring show was a sign of lasting improvement or just a one-game thing against an overmatched opponent.
Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes and Toney Baker scored three times to help the Wolfpack beat Murray State 65-7 on Saturday night, a strong way to bounce back from a miserable opening-night performance against South Carolina.
Wilson threw for 228 yards and directed a nearly flawless night by the same unit that couldn’t find the end zone last week. Meanwhile, Baker ran for 74 yards and two touchdowns while adding a TD catch late in the first half that helped N.C. State (1-1) to a 45-0 lead into the break.
Freshman James Washington also scored three touchdowns for N.C. State, which scored on its first 10 drives before finally punting midway through the fourth quarter.
It was the most points ever scored by a Tom O’Brien-coached team, the most by the Wolfpack in seven years and tied for eighth-most in program history. That it all came against a Football Championship Subdivision team was inconsequential to O’Brien.
“It doesn’t matter how you win or who you (beat),” O’Brien said. “A victory’s a victory, and it counts. There’s a much better feel in the locker room … but there’s a lot of things we have to get better at and we know that.”
The Wolfpack had 484 total yards, and Wilson extended his interception-free streak to 293 passes to move into second place in NCAA history.
“I wouldn’t say we put pressure on ourselves during practice,” Wilson said. “We just worked a little bit harder and got a little bit better. And when it came game time, we were really focused in and executed.”
The same was true of the defense, which held the Racers (1-1) to 36 total yards and five first downs. Murray State’s only highlight came when Nico Yantko connected with Daniel Ard on a 2-yard TD pass early in the fourth quarter, though that came after the Wolfpack had built a 65-0 lead.
Defensive tackle Leroy Burgess did his part to help N.C. State’s offense shake out of its rut. He recovered a fumble on the Racers’ first possession to set up the Wolfpack’s first touchdown on Jarvis Williams’ 27-yard catch, then did it again on the next series to provide another short field on the way to a 19-yard TD catch from Owen Spencer.
Punt returner T.J. Graham also helped with a 57-yard return early in the second quarter that put N.C. State at Murray State’s 1 after the ‘Pack had already built a 28-0 lead.
“It was a team effort,” said Burgess, a senior who had never recovered a fumble before Saturday. “Coach O’Brien sat us down and told us what we needed to do to get better. We went to work and accomplished all of those things.”
Baker’s play was a welcome sight. He had missed almost all of the past two years with knee injuries, and his comeback last week began with a fumble on the Wolfpack’s first offensive play to set up the game’s only touchdown. He showed some familiar burst against Murray State, scoring on a 1-yard run in the second quarter followed by a 39-yard TD on a screen pass late in the half.
He added a 3-yard score early in the third quarter. Those were his first touchdowns since the finale of the 2006 season against East Carolina in Chuck Amato’s final game as N.C. State’s coach.
“Hey, it’s a process,” Baker said. “I got that first game out of the way, came out healthy and ran hard. I felt like it was getting in a rhythm this week, and I’m just looking forward to keep building this week.”
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