Quick hits and notes from NC State's season-opening 35-21 loss to Tennessee in front of 55,529 fans at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Friday night.
Brutal stretch puts Pack in a hole
NC State led 7-6 and was actually controlling the line of scrimmage until about 1:07 to go in the first half. That's when on a fourth and three at the Tennessee 35, fifth-year senior Mike Glennon threw the first of his four interceptions. Vols fifth-year senior corner Prentiss Waggner's long interception return was called back for a holding, placing the ball at the 28.
Thirty-eight seconds and three plays later Tennessee was leading 22-7. The plays were a 72-yard bomb from Tennessee junior quarterback Tyler Bray to senior wide out Zach Rogers, a safety when Glennon fumbled the ball into the end zone and redshirt sophomore fullback Logan Winkles recovered, and then a 67-yard reverse run for a touchdown by junior Cordarrelle Patterson.
The last time NC State gave up a safety was in 2007 against South Florida. The last time State gave up at least 22 points in the first quarter was in 1997 against Florida State when the Noles scored 27 en route to a 48-35 victory.
Tennessee had not scored at least 22 points in a quarter since they put up 23 in the third against not-so-mighty UT-Martin in 2010, and the last time they had at least 22 in the first 15 minutes was when they blitzed Arkansas for 35 points in 2000.
Ironically, the UT-Martin game was also the last time Tennessee had a safety.
Big plays, turnovers kill NC State
Tennessee had at least four plays over 40 yards in the game, three of them resulting in touchdowns. That was part of State giving up an astounding 524 yards of total offense, topping any total they gave up last year. The last time a team went for at least 500 yards of offense was the Cincinnati game last season.
Glennon's four picks doubled the most he threw in any game last year. He threw two picks three times in 2011: at Cincinnati, at Virginia and at Florida State. Only once last season did NC State have four turnovers, and that was the regular season ending victory over Maryland.
Third-down conversions did not help the Pack out either, especially in the second half. Tennessee was just 3 of 9 on third downs at the half, but went 6 of 10 in the second session, including their first four on a crucial touchdown-scoring opening drive to the second half for the Vols to put Tennessee up 29-14. Two of those third down conversions were from distances of 10 yards each.
One of the most exciting aspects about season openers are the debuts of newcomers. Perhaps the highlight of NC State's rookies was redshirt freshman corner Juston Burris, who saw extensive playing time and finished with six solo tackles, two assists and a pass breakup.
Two other defensive newcomers recorded stats. Redshirt freshman defensive end Mike Rose had a solo hit and an assist, while Colorado transfer and redshirt junior defensive end Forrest West had a pass breakup.
Other defensive players getting on the field for the first time in a Wolfpack uniform were junior defensive tackle Deylan Buntyn, junior linebacker Robert Caldwell, redshirt freshmen defensive tackles Carlos Gray and Dave Mann and redshirt freshman safety Hakim Jones.
Offensively, freshman Charlie Hegedus, the only true freshman to play Friday night, caught a seven-yard pass. Redshirt freshmen receivers Maurice Morgan and Hakeem Flowers and redshirt freshman tight end Benson Browne also played.
True freshmen that made the trip but did not play were defensive end Kenderius Whitehead, running back Shadrach Thornton, quarterback Manny Stocker, cornerback Niles Clark, safety J.J. Jones, linebacker M.J. Salahuddin and offensive tackle Quincy McKinney.
Big night for Payton
Redshirt junior receiver Quintin Payton, making his first career start, caught four passes for 129 yards. To put that in perspective, he had 145 career receiving yards entering Friday night. The last time a State player had more receiving yards in a game than Payton was T.J. Graham's 176-yard output at Cincinnati.
Another receiving targets almost doubled his career outputs. Redshirt junior tight end Asa Watson caught four passes for 50 yards. He had two career recrptions for 28 yards before Friday. Fifth-year senior tight end Mario Carter set career highs with five catches for 46 yards.
Return of Moose, Underwood
Redshirt sophomore Mustafa Greene had a successful return to the field, leading NC State with 11 carries for 53 yards, an average of 4.8 yards a rush. Greene missed all of last season with a foot injury and then had off the field issues sideline him most of the spring and into preseason camp.
Redshirt sophomore wide out Bryan Underwood was sidelined by knee surgery most of preseason camp but made it back to the field for Friday night. He caught three passes for nine yards, including a five-yard touchdown.