Morris, defense lead No. 21 NC State past No. 20 Wake Forest

Published 12:59 am Sunday, November 6, 2022

By Aaron Beard
AP Sports Writer

RALEIGH — First-year passer MJ Morris threw for three scores while No. 21 North Carolina State’s defense thrice picked off Sam Hartman to beat No. 20 Wake Forest 30-21 on Saturday night.

Morris threw for 210 yards in becoming the first true freshman in more than 22 years to start for the Wolfpack (7-2, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), following his three-TD effort in last week’s comeback home win against Virginia Tech. This performance, though, came against a ranked instate foe featuring a veteran star QB in Hartman leading a high-scoring offense.

“He’s way ahead of where we thought he would be at this point in his career,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said of Morris.

Morris hit Darryl Jones for two of his TDs and Keyon Lesane for another to lead the offense. He also directed a key late drive that took four minutes off the clock and set up Christopher Dunn’s 25-yard field goal to make it a two-possession game with 2:54 left.

Dunn added two other field goals, including a 51-yarder late in the third.

Meanwhile, the Wolfpack’s veteran defense got after Hartman for four sacks and plenty of pressure up front to make things difficult all night.

This wasn’t the type of performance Dave Clawson wanted from his Demon Deacons (6-3, 2-3), who cracked the top 10 of the AP Top 25 before a disastrous trip to Louisville that included eight turnovers — six by Hartman in the third quarter alone — and a lopsided loss.

Hartman threw for 397 yards and two touchdowns, but he was picked off by Jakeen Harris on the Demon Deacons’ first possession. Cyrus Fagan grabbed another on a fourth-down throw into traffic in the third quarter, and then Aydan White tallied the third interception on the first play of the fourth.

He connected with Taylor Morin and A.T. Perry for touchdowns, while Perry had a huge game with 12 catches for 159 yards. But the Demon Deacons managed just 17 yards rushing to put everything on Hartman’s right arm.

“It’s a good football team, it’s a tough environment, it’s a really good old veteran defense,” Clawson said of the Wolfpack. “They started a freshman quarterback but the rest of that unit is good players. They’ve got a veteran O-line, they’ve got veteran offensive skill. He played well, but they didn’t ask him to win the game.”


Wake Forest: The formula for the Demon Deacons’ success under Clawson has been avoiding self-inflicted mistakes like turnovers and penalties. They now have 11 turnovers in two games and had nine penalties for 74 yards in this one.

N.C. State: N.C. State’s last two home games had featured comebacks from double-digit deficits after halftime, first from 17-3 down at the break against Florida State and then last week’s rally from a 21-3 hole late in the third against Virginia Tech. This time the Wolfpack played from in front while Dave Doeren’s young quarterback looked steady and mobile all night, following eventual longtime NFL quarterback Philip Rivers as the last true freshman QB starter for the Wolfpack.

“He’s going to be fun for y’all to watch,” Jones said of Morris.


N.C. State is showing the kind of resilience sure to keep the Wolfpack solidly in the AP Top 25, while Wake Forest could tumble slightly after another off-target performance.


N.C. State won its 16th-straight home game, tying the program record set from 1972-75 under Lou Holtz.


Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons host No. 17 North Carolina next Saturday for a second-straight matchup against a ranked instate ACC team.

N.C. State: The Wolfpack’s home finale comes next Saturday with a division visit from Boston College.