It was a banner day for redshirt sophomore quarterback Russell Wilson, as he led the Pack to a 45 - 14 victory over Gardner-Webb at Carter-Finley stadium Saturday night. The game began with back-to-back touchdown drives capped by Toney Baker touchdown runs while Wilson claimed the NCAA record for most consecutive passes without an interception (now 329 consecutive passes).
Wilson was 26-of-36 for 345 yards and four scores, helping redshirt sophomore George Bryan also record a career day of his own. The tight end hauled in six catches for 89 yards and two scores despite not starting the game.
Baker led the team with 71 yards rushing and the Pack more than doubled Gardner-Webb's offensive production, limiting the Runnin' Bulldogs to 213 yards of offense while racking up more than 470 yards of offense.
The Pack moved the ball at will from the opening whistle, recording long touchdown drives in each of their first three possessions while shutting out their opponent in the first half for the second-straight week, despite starting three freshmen in the defensive backfield.
After the two Baker touchdown runs, Russell Wilson hooked up with T.J. Graham for a 24-yard strike to close a first quarter that saw Wilson rack up 174 yards through the air.
The second quarter saw Josh Czajkowski remain perfect on the season, converting on a 41-yard opportunity and the first of Bryan's two touchdown catches.
True freshman cornerback Rashard Smith was forced to leave the game during the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return in the second half, pressing redshirt junior DeAndre Morgan into more playing time than the coaching staff originally thought he would see tonight in his first action of the season. Morgan finished the night with three tackles.
The Pack also welcomed wide receiver Donald Bowens back to their receiving core, as he saw his first game action since 2007. Bowens was out the entire 2008 season with back fractures and missed the first part of this season due to knee surgery but still hauled in two passes from Mike Glennon, who was 3-of-4 on the night for 20 yards. Owen Spencer was forced to leave the game early as well and did not return after going down late in the second quarter with a concussion.
The Pack's defense slumped a little bit in the second-half, due to penalties and missed assignments, and head coach Tom O'Brien was critical of the defense's second-half performance.
"I'm not very happy at all with the defense in the second half," O'Brien said. "We had too many penalties and ended up turning the ball over too much which gave them a lot of chances."
O'Brien and his team is already putting Gardner-Webb in the rear-view mirror and is focusing on Pittsburgh, who will be at Carter-Finley Stadium next Saturday.
"Throughout the week we talked about an emphasis to make plays but we must be better next week."