ACC Football: N.C. State 45, Gardner-Webb 14
By Joedy McCreary
RALEIGH ó Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes to give North Carolina State plenty of breathing room. Then, with a short toss, he made history.
Wilson threw for a career-high 345 yards and set an NCAA passing record in the Wolfpack’s 45-14 rout of Gardner-Webb on Saturday.
For most of the game, the only question was whether Wilson would play long enough to break the NCAA record of 325 consecutive passes without an interception, a mark set by Kentucky’s Andre Woodson from 2006-07. He entered 32 attempts behind Woodson but surpassed him late in the third quarter with a 13-yard dump-off over the middle to running back James Washington.
“It speaks to his decision making,” coach Tom O’Brien said. “We got lucky a couple of times through the streak, but you have to get lucky a couple of times.”
There certainly wasn’t anything lucky about this performance. Toney Baker had two early scoring runs before Wilson threw touchdown passes covering 17 and 12 yards to George Bryan, 24 yards to T.J. Graham and 16 yards to Jarvis Williams for the Wolfpack (2-1).
But while the remaining fans cheered Wilson’s record, the quarterback didn’t give himself any time to savor it.
“I had to make sure we got the next play off. … (The Wolfpack) had to keep going, had to keep pushing the offense,” Wilson said. “We had to score again.”
Six plays later, Wilson threw his fourth touchdown pass ó the strike to Williams that capped his night and extended the pick-free streak to 329.
His 26 completions and 36 attempts were career highs, and he easily sailed past his 279-yard outing in last year’s 41-10 upset of North Carolina.
“We’ve got to keep the streak going, and keep the wins going,” Wilson said.
N.C. State scored the first four times it touched the ball, led 24-0 before Gardner-Webb crossed midfield and routed a Football Championship Subdivision team for the second time in eight days.
Coming off last week’s 65-7 rout of Murray State, N.C. State expected more of a test from the Bulldogs. They returned 10 starters from a defense that last year held Georgia Tech more than 200 yards rushing below its average in a 10-7 loss.
But Gardner-Webb (2-1) was no match for a Wolfpack team that outgained the Bulldogs 477-213 and kept them off the scoreboard until Marquis Sanders’ 18-yard scoring run midway through the third quarter.
Baker got the rout started by capping each of the Wolfpack’s first two lengthy possessions with touchdown runs. His spinning, 11-yard scoring run closed out a 10-play opening drive, and he followed that by plowing in from two yards out to make it 14-0.