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Quick hits and notes from NC State's 43-21 win over Liberty Saturday night in front of 56,564 fans at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.
NC State forced seven turnovers in this game, tying for the most ever forced in a single game by a Pack defense. State also forced seven turnovers against South Carolina in 1983. One of those turnovers led directly to a touchdown. Junior defensive tackle Brian Slay scooped up a fumble by Liberty fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Brown and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown with 8:51 left in the third quarter.
The Slay touchdown was the fourth-longest fumble return in school history and longest since Hassan Shamsid-Dean's 68-yard return for a touchdown against Duke in 1995. Slay would recover another fumble in the fourth quarter. Fifth-year senior linebacker Audie Cole was the last Wolfpacker to have a pair of fumble recoveries in a game, doing it last year at East Carolina.
NC State had four interceptions for the first time since 2008 when they picked off four against Miami in the regular season finale. Sophomore corner David Amerson had his first two career interceptions, and he was the first to pick off a pair of passes in a game since junior safety Brandan Bishop had two against Boston College last year. Sophomore linebacker D.J. Green also had his first career pick. Redshirt junior safety Earl Wolff had the other interception.
State had their own sloppiness issues however. The Pack put the ball on the ground four times, losing two fumbles. Redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon was sacked four times, and the Pack was unable to get the ball to its star fifth-year senior tight end George Bryan. The last time Bryan did not catch a pass in a game was the 2009 season finale against UNC.
Freshman place kicker Niklas Sade missed an extra point after a five-yard penalty for false start, and he had another PAT blocked. Classmate Wil Baumann shanked his first punt attempt, although it rolled for 50 yards. That would turn out to be Baumann's best punt on the night.
Late surge puts game away
The final margin of 22 points is very deceiving for those who did not watch the game. Liberty was down 30-21 with the ball midway through the fourth quarter before fifth-year senior defensive end Jeff Rieskamp forced a Brown fumble that was recovered by Slay with 8:46 left in the contest.
Liberty out-gained NC State 406 to 318 and had a 21-17 first down advantage, a figure that was 20-10 going into the fourth quarter.
Glennon had an up-and-down game. He finished completing 18 of 31 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown, but struggled to avoid the rush and get a downfield passing attack going. He did close the game with a nice touch lob to the back of the end zone to redshirt junior quarterback Mario Carter.
The running game finished with 162 yards rushing. Fifth-year senior Curtis Underwood, Jr. had his first career 100-yard rushing effort, carrying 14 times for 114 yards and a score. Junior James Washington added 14 carries for 67 yards and two touchdowns.
Graham does it again
Senior T.J. Graham gave a huge spark to the Pack with his 82-yard punt return for a score with 3:38 left in the first half to give State a 16-7 lead. The 11th longest punt return in Pack history was also Graham's second career punt return for a score. He also has two kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Making their debuts
The surprise true freshman of the game was defensive tackle T.Y. McGill. He came into the game after redshirt freshman Thomas Teal left the field on crutches with a foot injury. Teal had two tackles, both of them for loss, and a sack, in his debut. McGill assisted on a tackle in brief action.
The other true freshman to play (besides the three specialists) was linebacker Michael Peek, but he did not have a tackle.
In all 13 players saw their first career action. Redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Brosius got in for the last snap, handing off to redshirt freshman tailback Tony Creecy. Creecy ran for seven yards in his first carry.
Sade made a 33-yarder in his lone attempt. Baumann averaged 36.4 yards on seven punts, downing two inside the 20. Scott Thompson did not have a bad snap.
Redshirt junior Tobais Palmer was arguably State's best receiver, catching three passes for 46 yards. Redshirt freshman Bryan Underwood also saw playing time at receiver.
Redshirt junior defensive end McKay Frandsen assisted on a pair of tackles. Redshirt freshman Art Norman was active at defensive end. Norman assisted on a pair of tackles, both of them were sacks. Norman also had a pair of quarterback hurries.
Two players suiting up in new positions were safety Dean Haynes, a redshirt sophomore, and receiver Rashard Smith, a redshirt sophomore. Haynes had a solo tackle and assist. Smith caught a six-yard pass.
Spotted at the game
Among the crowd of recruits were several commitments: receiver Charlie Hegedus from Lassiter High in Marietta, Ga., defensive tackle K'Hadree Hooker from South Lenoir High in Deep Run, N.C., and linebacker Majid Salahuddin from Jack Britt High in Fayetteville, N.C.
Both of the official visitors in football, offensive lineman Terry Davis from Wyoming High in Cincinnati, Ohio and cornerback Chris Bivins from Gainesville (Fla.) High, were also spotted.
NC State basketball coaches were seen hosting top low-post prospect Brice Johnson from Edisto High in Cordova, S.C., on his official visit.