Russell Wilson and Nate Irving both had career days, leading the NC State Wolfpack (4-0, 1-0 ACC) to a 45-28 victory in Atlanta, over the defending ACC Champion Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-2, 1-1). Wilson threw for a career-best 368 yards while Irving tallied a career-high 16 tackles, to go along with two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss.
In a game where offensive fireworks were expected, NC State and Georgia Tech's defenses both started the game very strongly. The Pack had possession first, but could only gain one first down before giving the ball back to the Yellow Jackets on a sack and fumble caused by Brad Jefferson.
The two teams traded punts before the Pack finally got moving on offense. After driving to the 13 yard line, though, the Pack stalled and Josh Czajkowski was not able to convert on a 31-yard attempt. The Pack defense held strong once again, allowing the Yellow Jackets to gain just one yard before forcing a punt. Asa Watson got through the line quickly and blocked the punt, where it was scooped up at the one-yard line and taken in for the game's first touchdown by Jarvis Williams. The Pack would not fall behind the rest of the day, but there were plenty of scares.
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Georgia Tech was not able to answer the Pack's opening touchdown and NC State forced another three-and-out. Wilson guided the Pack down the field on a drive that started at their own 39-yard line and ended with a 35-yard field goal from Czajkowski.
On the ensuing Yellow Jacket possession, Anthony Allen fumbled the handoff and David Akinniyi recovered for the Pack at the 46. Three consecutive runs by Dean Haynes set up what looked like it would be the Pack's third score of the day, but Czajkowski missed another 31-yard attempt.
The second missed field goal awoke the Georgia Tech faithful, as well as their offense. B.J. Bostic rattled off a 43-yard run after the Yellow Jackets picked up a first down and they eventually finished the 80-yard scoring drive with Orwin Smith's 10-yard touchdown run.
NC State took over with just under two and a half minutes remaining before halftime, but the Pack drove 69 yards in less than two minutes for their first offensive touchdown. After Wilson found Williams on a 22-yard completion, the Pack had the ball right outside of the red zone. From there, Wilson hooked up with Steven Howard on a 21-yard completion that was originally called out-of-bounds. After an official review, the call was reversed, giving the Pack a 17-7 lead following Czajkowski's successful point-after attempt.
On the first offensive play after the break, Nesbitt broke a career-long 61 yard run and Roddy Jones punched it in from four yards out to close the gap to a field goal, 17-14.
The Pack offense came out of the break looking strong, as well. They repeatedly sliced through the Yellow Jackets with Wilson finding holes in the pass defense and Haynes gaining 21 yards on the drive. Wilson found Taylor Gentry and Owen Spencer on pass plays that went for more than 20 yards, and capped the drive with a five-yard strike to Williams. Czajkowski's extra point pushed the Pack lead back to ten points.
The Yellow Jackets were not able to repeat the success of their opening drive in the second half after the Pack's touchdown. Earl Wolff made an impressive pass break-up on third down to ensure the Georgia Tech punt and the Pack took over at the 39-yard line.
On the first play, Wilson looked deep for Spencer and, although the pass fell to the ground incomplete, there was a pass interference call against the home team. Wilson hooked up with T.J. Graham on the following play for 23 yards and the quarterback would cap the drive himself, scoring on a six-yard touchdown run.
A 34-yard return by Bostic gave the Yellow Jackets great field position but the Pack defense forced a turnover on downs and Wilson took over with the ball at the Pack's 48-yard line. The Pack was not able to take advantage, though, and was punted the ball back to Georgia Tech.
On the first play of the drive, Anthony Allen took a pass in the flats 50 yards downfield and set up Georgia Tech's first touchdown pass of the game. Two plays later, Tyler Melton caught a 32-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead back down to ten points. Both receptions marked the first of the season for Allen and Melton.
The next Pack possession was one they would like to forget quickly. After being forced into a third-and-ten deep in Georgia Tech territory, Wilson faced heavy pressure and threw a pass that was picked off by the Yellow Jackets' Jerrard Tarrant. Tarrant returned Wilson's first interception of the year 34 yards for the touchdown return. After the successful extra point, Georgia Tech cut the lead back down to a field goal at 31-28.
The Pack responded with another touchdown, this one a 23-yard pass that T.J. Graham came down with in the end zone. The nine play drive took almost three and a half minutes off the clock, but, more importantly, pushed the NC State lead back to double digits and quieted the crowd.
The Pack defense looked like it was going to keep the momentum going for the Red and White before Nesbitt tucked the ball on a long third-down attempt and gained a first down with a 13-yard gain. After that, the Pack defense held strong in high-pressure situations. With just six and a half minutes remaining on the game clock, Nesbitt and the Yellow Jackets went for it on fourth-and-ten, but some heavy pressure from Irving forced the quarterback's pass to fall incomplete.
Wilson and the Pack took over with the ball at the 30 and began working on the clock with two straight runs and a short pass that Spencer turned into a first down. After that, a 12-yard run by Mustafa Greene put the ball at the five-yard line, and the freshman would punch it in on the next play for the rookie's fourth consecutive game with a score.
The Pack defense got back on track after Greene's touchdown run and would not let the Jackets sniff the red zone again. Georgia Tech was only able to pick up 36 yards over the final four minutes of the game and the Pack would go on to tie their largest margin of victory ever against the Yellow Jackets.