College Football: N.C. State 38, Pittsburgh
By Joedy McCreary
RALEIGH ó Nobody could stop North Carolina State when it counted most. Not Pittsburgh’s defense, and not even the Wolfpack’s own mistakes.
Toney Baker scored from 2 yards out with 6:28 left and N.C. State’s defense made a late stand to preserve a 38-31 victory over the Panthers on Saturday.
In a wild game in which the teams combined for 830 total yards, Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes for the third straight week and finished 21 of 35 for 322 yards for the Wolfpack (3-1). Wilson also rushed 10 times for 91 yards and led three straight second-half touchdown drives for N.C. State.
“With the quarterback, the way he’s playing, we’ll keep slinging it around the yard and see what happens,” coach Tom O’Brien said.
The last drive was kept alive by two pass-interference calls on third downs against Pitt. Baker raced untouched through the left side two plays later to give N.C. State its first ó and only ó lead.
“The penalties we had on defense were mind-boggling,” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said.
Bill Stull was 12 of 23 for 206 yards with two touchdown passes while Dion Lewis had two early scoring runs for the Panthers (3-1).
They had one last chance to force overtime after a shotgun snap sailed over Wilson’s head and was recovered by Pitt’s Max Gruder at the N.C. State 8 with 2:45 remaining.
But freshman safety Brandan Bishop knocked a sure touchdown catch out of Dorin Dickerson’s hands one play before Stull’s fourth-down pass sailed out of the end zone with 1:15 left.
“We gave them some opportunities, but we took advantage of ours,” O’Brien said.
Pitt’s best start since 2000 was spoiled by an N.C. State team that held Lewis, the Big East’s leading rusher, to just 16 yards in the second half. Lewis finished with 95 yards and scored on runs of 6 and 7 yards in the first half.
“We didn’t tackle in the first half,” O’Brien said. “If we can tackle at all in the first half, it’s probably a different story.”
For a while, it seemed the Panthers would claim their eighth road victory in nine tries dating to their upset of then-No. 2 West Virginia in 2007 ó especially after Stull hit Jonathan Baldwin with a 79-yard touchdown pass to make it 31-17 late in the third.
That’s when Wilson took over. He started the comeback with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Williams, then tied it at 31-all with a pretty 7-yard flip to George Bryan before leading the go-ahead drive.
Earlier, he had scoring passes of 23 yards to Taylor Gentry and 38 yards to Baker, extended his NCAA-record streak of pass attempts without an interception to 364 and proved that the Wolfpack’s offense can pile up the points against college football’s big boys, too.
“I’ll do whatever it takes, whether it’s running the ball or throwing it,” Wilson said.
N.C. State came in with the highest-scoring offense in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but that average of nearly 38 points seemed misleading because all but three of its 113 total points came in consecutive routs of Football Championship Subdivision teams Murray State and Gardner-Webb. South Carolina, the only FBS team the Wolfpack played before Pitt, kept them out of the end zone in the opener.
Instead, N.C. State ó which outgained the Panthers 530-300 and ran 81 plays to 46 for Pitt ó became the second team this season to rack up 500 total yards against Pitt.