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October 12, 2013
NC State never expected to be winless in the ACC after three league contests, but the Syracuse ground attack produced a pair of 130-plus-yard runners in the Orange's 24-10 win over the Wolfpack on Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium.
NC State fell to 3-3 overall and 0-3 in the league going into its second and final bye week. The Wolfpack return to action at 5-0 Florida State on Oct. 26. Getting players healthy and defending against the run will be two of the main priorities over the next two weeks. The latter helped Syracuse rush for 362 yards and three touchdowns on 40 carries to improve to 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the ACC.
Syracuse junior tailback Jerome Smith rushed for 140 yards on 19 carries, and a one-yard touchdown plunge for the first score of the game with 11:11 left in the second quarter. He helped set up the game-winning touchdown with a 57-yard run to the NC State 18-yard line.
Teammate Prince-Tyson Gulley took it from there. The senior running back scampered in from 18-yards out to give the Orange a 16-10 lead with 6:13 left in the fourth quarter. Gulley was right behind Smith with 132 rushing yards on just nine carries.
Syracuse missed the extra point after Gulley's touchdown run, but eventually made up for it by getting the two-point conversion following redshirt sophomore quarterback Terrel Hunt's 8-yard touchdown run with 2:39 left in the game, giving the Orange a commanding 24-10 lead. Gulley helped set up the score with a 48-yard run to the NCSU 5-yard line.
"It was just two runs, but they were both huge plays," said NCSU coach Dave Doeren on the long runs by Smith and Gulley. "They cracked us right down the middle of our defense on a A-gap power play that we had been stopping."
Hunt, like Wake Forest senior quarterback Tanner Price last week, also hurt NC State with his legs. Hunt rushed for 92 yards on 11 carries, plus his touchdown, which helped make up for his mediocre passing numbers. Syracuse only passed for 74 yards.
The Orange rushed for 134 yards in the fourth quarter, getting stronger as the game progressed.
"Syracuse was better in the fourth quarter running the football and we weren't better at stopping the run like we had been," Doeren said. "Our goal was to make their quarterback have to throw and beat us. We didn't do that.
"For three quarters, I was very proud of what we put on the field and played an aggressive game plan. We just have to make more plays and obviously finish the game better."
Running the football is Syracuse's identity and even during its 49-14 loss to Clemson last week, the Orange rushed for 323 yards and two touchdowns on 48 carries.
"I think any recipe we can think of in our game plan will be the best recipe, but I like those two horses," Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said. "I like the young ones too when we get them going. I know that offensive line likes to run the ball by providing space."
Shafer quipped that he wanted to bring some of the north to the south against NC State to earn a key road victory.
"That was a great victory for our kids," Shafer said. "I am extremely proud of them. We talked about we thought we could rush the ball on a good rush defense. That defense has stopped the run this year. That was a great challenge for our kids and coaches on the offense line."
NC State senior Dontae Johnson, who played both cornerback and safety due to injuries against the Orange, said the defense knew what was coming, but still couldn't stop it.
"It's tough especially at home, but we knew that was what they are going to do," Johnson said. "They were going to run the ball on us and establish a running game. To see it happen in the fourth quarter and have it cost us a game is really tough, especially with the defense not being tough enough. They out-toughed us in the fourth quarter and it sucks."
NC State was right there with Syracuse for the first 3 1/2 quarters but also missed out on some opportunities. Redshirt junior quarterback Pete Thomas tossed a 21-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman tight end David J. Grinnage with 1:15 left in the second quarter, but couldn't cash in on other trips into Syracuse territory.
NC State turned the ball over on downs after reaching the Syracuse 8-yard line in the second quarter. Freshman quarterback Bryant Shirreffs tried to find redshirt junior fullback Tyler Purvis in the end zone on fourth down and two.
Syracuse's defense stiffened three other times when the Wolfpack got past the Orange's 35-yard line. Thomas threw his lone interceptions, junior kicker Niklas Sade missed a field goal and then he tried a trick play on another field-goal attempt and passed the ball out of bounds.
Add in Thomas overthrowing a wide-open Jumichael Ramos on a deep ball that the freshman wide receiver likely would have turned into a quick six points, and frustration was plentiful across the board.
NC State turned it over on downs with the game nearly over, but by then the Orange were celebrating their road victory.
"We made some plays, but had guys open and overthrew it," Doeren said. "We had a couple of nice throws that were dropped. We just weren't good enough."
The frustrating loss could only leave the NC State players to ponder what could of been, which eventually turned into what injured players could have helped win the game.
Getting players back healthy is instrumental in the Wolfpack's hopes of reaching six wins and become bowl eligible. NC State entered the Syracuse game with a number of players injured, but then lost redshirt sophomore left tackle Joe Thuney, redshirt junior quarterback Pete Thomas, junior defensive tackle T.Y. McGill and freshman cornerback Jack Tocho, who provided a spark with two first-half interceptions in his first start.
Thomas injured his non-throwing left shoulder, and Tocho sprained the AC joint in his left shoulder, but both are expected to not miss too much time.
The newly injured joined fifth-year senior quarterback Brandon Mitchell, senior left tackle Rob Crisp, fifth-year senior wide receiver Rashard Smith, fifth-year senior free safety Jarvis Byrd and fifth-year senior defensive end Darryl Cato-Bishop.
Doeren sounded hopeful Thursday about Mitchell returning to action Saturday, but said it wasn't close after pre-game warmups. NC State ended up playing three quarterbacks and were sacked four times and hurried numerous other occasions.
"I could have played him and put him at risk," Doeren said. "I'm not going to do that. I can still tell he is not himself when he has to run. We've shown this year that our quarterbacks are going to have to scramble sometimes. I don't want to put him in that position until I know he's safe. I think he will be by the next game."
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