CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina State is one win away from being bowl eligible after dominating its rival North Carolina on Saturday.
Record-setting redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Wilson continued his mastery by leading the Wolfpack to a 41-10 victory at Kenan Stadium. NCSU improved to 5-6 overall and 3-4 in the ACC, while North Carolina fell to 7-4 and 3-4 in the ACC.
NC State's final hurdle to reaching a bowl game is hosting Miami next Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium. While the focus will begin Sunday on the Hurricanes, the players and coaches relished defeating their arch-rivals for the second straight year.
The Wolfpack improved to 6-1 against in-state Division I colleges under second-year coach Tom O'Brien. The Pack won the mythical state title this year by defeating all four in-state colleges.
NC State poured it on in the second half after floundering some prime opportunities in the first half. The Wolfpack forced two fumbles and got one interception, but only led 10-3 at halftime.
NC State forced six turnovers in the win, and the Wolfpack didn't have a fumble or interception against the opportunistic Tar Heels' defense. The last of which was a Robbie Leonard interception that he returned to the UNC one-yard line.
Jamelle Eugene walked in from one-yard out for a touchdown with 2:05 left in the game for the last score.
North Carolina sophomore running back Shaun Draughn fumbled on UNC's first drive at the NC State 47-yard line, but Wilson fumbled the snap on a third and one at the UNC 20, forcing a 40-yard field goal attempt by redshirt sophomore Josh Czajkowski that went wide left.
On the next play, Draughn again fumbled, and NC State recovered at the UNC 23. After failing to get a first down, Czajkowski was successful on a 39-yard field with 8:12 remaining in the first quarter, giving NC State an early 3-0 advantage.
The Pack was driving to end the first quarter. After starting at their own 3-yard line, State faced a third and eight from the 26 when Wilson hit redshirt sophomore Jarvis Williams for 55 yards on the final play of the quarter, giving State first and 10 at the UNC 19-yard line.
On the second play of the second quarter, Wilson found redshirt freshman tight end George Bryan for a 17-yard touchdown to give the Wolfpack a 10-0 lead with 14:20 left in the first half.
UNC cracked the scoreboard when freshman kicker Casey Barth hit a 37-yard field goal with 8:48 left in the second quarter. The Tar Heels converted on a fourth down and six when quarterback T.J. Yates found receiver Brooks Foster for seven yards to the Wolfpack 30-yard line.
NC State defensive end Willie Young ended the first half with a big interception at the UNC 39-yard line with 38 seconds remaining in the half.
The Wolfpack couldn't take advantage of their good fortune. NCSU decided not to try a 49-yard field goal on the last play of the half, and went for a touchdown.
Wilson's pass to T.J. Graham in the end zone was too high to end the half with the Wolfpack leading 10-3.
NC State started the second half in great field position when Graham returned the opening kickoff to the UNC 40-yard line, but State was unable to get a first down and turned it over on downs.
After a three and out by UNC, Wilson hit sophomore receiver Owen Spencer on a 54-yard pass play to the UNC 20-yard line, and redshirt junior running back Eugene finished off the drive with a one-yard touchdown, giving State a 17-3 lead with 9:53 left in the third quarter.
Carolina answered though on its next possession, capping off an impressive 60-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Ryan Houston. Wolfpack punter Bradley Pierson kicked the ball off to give the Heels the good field position.
With 6:44 left in the third quarter, NC State led 17-10.
NC State though answered, marching 68 yards on 10 plays, including an eight-yard pass from Wilson to freshman fullback Taylor Gentry for eight yards to the UNC 23 yard line, scoring on a one-yard run by senior running back Andre Brown with 1:28 left in the third quarter.
UNC tight end Richard Quinn then fumbled the kickoff and NC State senior safety J.C. Neal recovered at the UNC 21-yard line. Wilson quickly struck, hitting Spencer 21 yards in stride over the middle for a score.
With 1:14 left in the third quarter, NC State had opened up a 31-10 lead.
NC State tacked on a field goal to extend the lead to 34-10 with 8:43 left in the game. The Wolfpack ran on all 10 plays, leading up to Czajkowski's 32-yarder.
Even when UNC put together a little bit of a drive in the fourth quarter, the Wolfpack defense rose to the occasion.
True freshman cornerback Dominique Ellis recorded his first interception of his career at the NCSU 32-yard line to thwart the Tar Heels.