With the exception of a seam route by Cincinnati receiver DJ Woods just before the half and the last few minutes of the fourth, the NC State Wolfpack completely dominated the Cincinnati Bearcats Thursday night on ESPN.
The last two scores for Cincinnati made the final result (30-19) look more respectable, but the game was not as close as the score indicated.
In fact, after NC State’s defense failed to cover the middle of field while quarterback Zach Collaros threw to wide-open receiver DJ Woods for a touchdown, the offense calmly took the field with only 3:12 left in the half.
Just over two minutes later, NC State had scored again with a pass from quarterback Russell Wilson to tailback Curtis Underwood, Jr. The score at half was a comfortable 20-7 in favor of the Wolfpack.
In the second half, the Bearcats continued to struggle moving the ball. Excluding the final two scoring drives, which only affected the odds betters, Cincinnati finished with only 226 yards of total offense—nearly a third of that came on the touchdown to Woods in the first half.
The defense maintained constant pressure on the Bearcats' offensive line, which had to face at least five rushers on nearly every play. Collaros was sacked five times, in large part by the creative movement of the rush by defensive coordinator Mike Archer and linebackers' coach Jon Tenuta.
Russell Wilson performed up to his All-ACC quarterback status with 333 yards and three touchdowns. Last week against UCF, Wilson struggled to connect with his receivers, finishing with only 105 yards on 10-for-30 passing and one touchdown.
The running game also continues to improve. Led by true freshman Mustafa Greene (16 carries, 84 yards, and one touchdown), the Wolfpack as a team tabulated 158 yards on the ground averaging 4.4 yards per carry. A consistent running game combined with Wilson’s prowess as a passer made for a dangerous combination.
Granted, the win last night came against the reigning Big East Champion under a new coach and missing some key players from last year’s squad, and the Big East is ranked worse than the ACC as the fourth conference from the bottom in FBS according to ESPN's new conference power rankings.
But this is best “statement” by the ACC in non-conference play, and we’re already in Week 3.
With the conference wide open, NC State has to be considered a threat for the ACC crown.
Unless, of course, they play down to their competition as the conference opener looms next week.