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Thomas’ TD return helps NC State defeat Ball State

By Aaron Beard

AP Sports Writer

RALEIGH (AP) — Thayer Thomas had a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter while Max Fisher blocked a fourth-quarter punt to set up another score and help North Carolina State beat Ball State 34-23 on Saturday night.

Malik Dunlap recovered Fisher’s block, putting the Wolfpack at the Cardinals’ 7-yard line. Matthew McKay scored on a keeper three plays later at the 8:41 mark to help the Wolfpack stay in control.

McKay also ran for a second-quarter TD for N.C. State (3-1), which saw its offense slow significantly after halftime. But the Wolfpack turned away the Cardinals’ last best push on Chris Ingram’s end-zone interception with 3:43 left.

Justin Hall and Caleb Huntley ran for scores for Ball State (1-3), which entered with one of the nation’s top passing attacks behind Drew Plitt. Plitt threw for 333 yards but failed to connect for a score for the first time this year.

THE TAKEAWAY

N.C. State: The special teams came up big. Thomas had the biggest play when he took a punt, weaved through midfield and broke into the open for the TD return — N.C. State’s first since Nyheim Hines did it at Pittsburgh in 2017, a span of 22 games. Then there was Fisher’s block to give the Wolfpack a short field. N.C. State needed all of it, too, considering the offense managed just five first downs after halftime.

UP NEXT

Ball State: The Cardinals have an open date next week and return to action at Northern Illinois on Oct. 5.

N.C. State: Florida State hosts the Wolfpack in N.C. State’s Atlantic Coast Conference opener next Saturday.

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