RALEIGH — The NC State football team kept alive its bowl hopes with a suspense-filled 21-17 victory Saturday against Wake Forest at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Wilson methodically led NC State down the field to reclaim the lead in the fourth quarter. The 11-play, 69-yard drive was capped by a eight-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to senior tight end Anthony Hill.
Hill has three touchdown passes in his last four games, after entering his last year of college football with only one career score.
The maligned NC State defense was given a four-point lead with 6:17 left in the fourth quarter. Wake Forest took over at its own 44-yard line after punter Bradley Pierson's punt.
Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner was chased from the pocket by defensive tackle Keith Willis Jr. on first down, throwing the ball away.
Cornerback DeAndre Morgan came through on second down, undercutting WFU wideout D.J. Boldin for a loss of two yards.
The third down belonged to defensive end Willie Young, who knifed his way on a stunt to the inside for a sack of minus nine yards to set up fourth down and 21 with 4:36 left in the game.
The defense made its stand, sending Wake Forest backwards 11 yards.
Up next was for the offense to work the clock getting the ball at the Wolfpack 28-yard line.
NC State's offense struggled, running off 1:56 after four plays, including the punt. The defense needed to make a second stand, this time with Wake Forest starting from its own 33-yard line with 2:50 left in the game.
Skinner used the short passing game to pick up a first down. Outside linebacker Nate Irving had a shot at sacking Skinner, but he slipped through the star defender's arms.
However, unlikely defensive end Audi Augustin came through with a big sack for a four-yard loss to set up fourth down and seven at the WFU 45-yard line. NC State needed just one more stop to preserve the victory.
Skinner fumbled the snap and picked it up, when he didn't see anyone open, he took off and managed to pick up the necessary seven yards for the first down. Wake Forest still had life.
Skinner worked the sidelines, but the Pack defense was closing quickly. The Demon Deacons were 25 yards away from a touchdown with a minute left, but still need to get six yards over the next two downs to keep the drive alive.
Skinner's pass to receiver Marshall Williams in the end zone went right off his hands, setting up another game-deciding play, with fourth down and six to go.
Skinner rolled right and defensive tackle Alan-Michael Cash gave chase, getting to Skinner who threw away the pass with 41 seconds left.
NC State did what was needed on defense twice to pull out the victory.
NC State took the opening kickoff and took 12 plays to march 67 yards in 5:31 for a touchdown. Wilson hit a wide open redshirt freshman tight end George Bryan for an 11-yard touchdown on a third and eight play. NC State converted four third down plays on the drive, taking a 7-0 lead with 9:29 left in the first quarter.
The Pack threatened again on their second drive, but eventually had to punt. Wake then used a Skinner 25-yard pass to Boldin on third and eight to extend the drive, and two plays later Boldin took the reverse and threw it to a wide open Williams for a 64-yard score with 1:17 left in the quarter to tie the game at 7-7.
NC State came up with a big interception on third down in Wolfpack territory midway through the second quarter.
Skinner went deep down the right sideline and safety Clem Johnson deflected it and cornerback Jeremy Gray came through with the interception to stall the Demon Deacons' drive.
Wilson's legs and a little bit of his arm helped set up NC State's second touchdown.
Wilson scrambled 23 yards to the Wake Forest 28-yard line. The Demon Deacons had great coverage downfield, but no one to pick up Wilson when he took off.
Wilson again rushed for seven yards to the 19-yard line to set up a third down and one. Wilson had a run/pass option but with no one in front of him, he scrambled for five yards and a first down to the 14.
Wilson dumped a pass off to running back Andre Brown to the four-yard line for 10 yards and a first down.
Wilson then called his own number on a quarterback draw that covered the final four yards to give NC State a 14-7 lead with 1:39 left in the second quarter. He rushed for 39 yards on the drive.
Wake Forest responded with a well executed two-minute drill to end the half.
Skinner showed that Wilson wasn't the only quarterback who could make plays on the run. Skinner bought time and found wide receiver Chip Brinkman for 32 yards to the NC State 36-yard line. Three plays later, he scrambled 19 yards to the 15.
Skinner capped the scoring drive with a 7-yard pass to Boldin with 4.5 seconds left in the first half to tie the game 14-14.
Wake Forest reached the red zone to start the third quarter as the rain began to fall, but on back to back plays at the 17 yard line, running backs were stuffed for no gains when they needed one yard, turning it over on downs to the Pack.
Wilson though would fumble it while being sacked at the NC State 13-yard line later in the quarter, and Wake Forest recovered. Irving though stuffed Brandon Pendergrass for a two-yard loss on third and two at the 5, forcing a 24-yard field goal from Shane Popham to give Wake Forest a 17-14 lead with 8.9 seconds left in the third quarter.
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