Quick hits and notes from NC State's thrilling 29-25 win at North Carolina Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 60,000 at Kenan Stadium.
How sweet it is
The old adage is that nothing is finer than beating North Carolina. NC State achieved their fourth straight win against their archrival Saturday, and head coach Tom O'Brien remains undefeated in his four games against the Heels as the leader of the Wolfpack's program.
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This is only the second time in the series that now stretches 100 games that the Pack has won at least four in a row against UNC. They won five straight from 1988-1992.
The win assures that NC State will play for the Atlantic Division title in the ACC next Saturday at Maryland. The Terps are hosting Florida State Saturday night, and Maryland needs a win to remain in the division hunt. If FSU wins, they'll need a Wolfpack loss against Maryland to clinch the Atlantic Division.
The Pack is 8-3 on the year and 5-2 in the ACC. They are assured of a winning conference record for the first time since the Pack went 5-3 in 2002, which is also the last year that State won at least eight regular season games. NC State has not won six conference games in a year since 1992.
NC State was credited with seven sacks for losses of 55 yards Saturday. Counting other tackles for losses, the Heels ended up with a net loss of seven yards rushing. That is the first time this year State had held an opponent to negative yards rushing. The previous season low rushing yards allowed was 46 to Clemson. The all-time record for fewest rushing yards allowed in a game was negative-37 against VMI in 1946.
Seven different players had at least half a sack, led by redshirt junior defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy who had 1.5. NC State also had more hurries. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Terrell Manning sacked UNC senior quarterback T.J. Yates in the end zone with 27 seconds left for the Pack's first safety since 2005.
To UNC's credit, they also got after the quarterback. The Heels had four sacks and five more hurries. Sophomore Donte Paige-Moss in particular was hard to contain. Paige-Moss, who was suspended a game last year after throwing a punch at NC State junior linebacker Sterling Lucas following State's 28-27 win, led the way with two sacks. He also had 10 overall tackles and four tackles for losses.
Czajkowski is back
Fifth-year senior kicker Josh Czajkowski was thought to have been lost for the rest of the regular season when he hurt his hamstring against Clemson. He was back two weeks later, kicking field goals and extra points only. Czajkowski did not seem to be hampered any, especially when he connected on a season-long 47-yard field goal in the second quarter. Czajkowski also had a 24-yard field goal and made all three of his extra points.
Freshman walk-on Chris Hawthorne handled the kickoffs and averaged 57.3 yards per boot.
Fifth-year senior punter Jeff Ruiz saw his first action since the East Carolina game, and he responded when called on to kick the last punt of the game for State. Ruiz was asked to take a punt at the NC State 39 with just 47 seconds left in the game, and he got a nice roll on a 57-yard kick that was downed at the UNC 4.
Big game for Graham
Junior receiver T.J. Graham has been inconsistent this year returning kicks for NC State, but he had one of the defining moments of the game when he returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown with 14:07 left to give the Pack's its first lead of the game at 24-19.
That was Graham's first punt return for a score to go with two career kickoff returns to the end zone. Graham's return tied the third longest punt return for a score in school history. Graham also had 100 yards on kickoff returns, giving him a new school record for career kickoff return yards at 2,073. He became the first Wolfpack player to go over 2,000 yards.
Redshirt junior quarterback Russell Wilson had an up and down performance against UNC. He completed just 15 of 29 passes for 163 yards but had two touchdowns and just one pick. He also ran 10 times for 26, yards, including a huge 34-yard run that helped set up what will go down as one of the most memorable moments in the NC Sate-UNC football rivalry.
Facing fourth and goal at the UNC 2 with under four minutes remaining the third quarter and trailing 19-10, O'Brien decided to go for it. The play though was in shambles quickly, and a scrambling Wilson did everything he could to buy time. With pressure bearing down on him, Wilson threw it up for grabs in the end zone.
NC State fifth-year senior receiver Darrell Davis and UNC senior safety Da'Norris Searcy emerged from a crowded corner in the end zone to jump for the ball. Searcy said after the game that he saw Davis rising above him, so he knocked the ball forward. Waiting for it was NC State senior receiver Owen Spencer who caught the pass before it hit the ground.
After the play, a brief scuffle between NC State fifth-year senior Jarvis Williams and UNC sophomore linebacker Kevin Reddick broke out, and both players were ejected.
Davis made his first game action since sitting out the last two on a coach's decision. Davis caught three passes for 11 yards and a touchdown.
Props to Yates
UNC's signal caller certainly did lose this game for UNC. Despite taking a pounding, he completed 33 of 44 passes for 411 yards and two touchdowns without throwing an interception.
UNC's lone turnover came when tight end Ed Barham had the ball ripped out of his hands by NC State fifth-year senior linebacker Nate Irving. That was Irving's third forced fumble of the year and the 30th time this year State's opponent has put the ball on the ground. The most for an opponent in one year is 31 in 2002.
Yates' effort was the first time a quarterback threw for over 400 yards against the Pack since Thaddeus Lewis for Duke last year. Yates set a new school record for a single-season record for passing yards in a year during the game. Senior running back Anthony Elzy was his favorite target. Elzy set a new school record for receiving yards by a running back with 178 on nine catches, including a touchdown.
Spotted at the game
Bowl scouts from the Chick-fil-a Bowl, Champs Sports Bowl and Independence Bowl were at the game. A large crowd of recruits were there. Of interest in the senior class was Monte Golden, a lineman from Northside High in Jacksonville, N.C. Linebacker Ben Councell from AC Reynolds High in Asheville, N.C., was not spotted apparently.
Juniors at the game included: offensive lineman D.J. Reader from Greensboro (N.C.) Grimsley, receiver Jody Fuller from Monroe (N.C.) Sun Valley, offensive lineman Joel Suggs from Randleman (N.C.) High, athlete Phillip Williamson from Durham (N.C.) Jordan, defensive end Gimel President from Mt. Pleasant (S.C.) Wando and defensive tackle K'Hadree Hooker from Deep Run (N.C.) South Lenoir.