North Carolina State had their way on Thursday night with back to back Big East Champion, Cincinnati, on national television. The Wolfpack jumped out to an early 14-0 lead by the end of the first quarter with a balanced attack on the ground and through the air with a 16-yard touchdown reception by Jay Smith, followed on the very next drive by a 31-yard dash to the end zone by freshman Mustafa Greene.
Cincinnati’s offense struggled to get anything going on their first six possessions. The Bearcats missed a field goal and failed to convert a turnover in Wolfpack territory. The two longest drives during these possessions resulted in a punt and a fumble. The Bearcats just before the half on a two-play, quick strike, 74-yard touchdown drive.
NC State stalled on the first four drives of the second quarter, fumbling on three of the four possessions. However, once Cincinnati managed to put some points on the scoreboard, it only re-ignited the NC State offense. With just over three minutes left in the half, Russell Wilson lead the Wolfpack methodically down the field for another score before going into halftime.
The second half maintained a steady back and forth battle of field position, with a lone field goal by the Wolfpack being the only score in the third quarter. North Carolina State eventually put the game out of hand with just over seven minutes on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Taylor Gentry after the defense managed to block a punt in Bearcat territory.
Cincinnati came back with two more quick strikes at the end of the game to make the score more respectable than the game truly dictated.
The NC State Wolfpack are off to their first 3-0 start since the Philip Rivers era and are already exceeding the expectations set forth during the preseason. With several question marks looming in the ACC, the Wolfpack are looking to be the dark horse for the conference championship.
Even with favorable matchups at home against Boston College and Wake Forest, they will still have a tough road ahead, having to travel to Atlanta to for a game against Georgia Tech, hosting another Thursday night matchup against Florida State, and two in-state rivalry games against North Carolina and East Carolina.
Coach Tom O’Brien will be looking for his team to ride the momentum of the great win with a short week of preparation in an effort to establish themselves as one of the better teams in the ACC