Wolfpack Stymies Canes in Raleigh

Wolfpack Stymies Canes in Raleigh

by Carter Toole

RALEIGH, N.C. – Points were at a premium Saturday night at chilly Carter-Finley Stadium. Physicality was not.

Miami and NC State traded takeaways and three-and-outs, each defense stifling the opposing offense with every passing series. But the Wolfpack landed the final blow.

State’s defense stuffed the Canes on a 4th and 1 near its goal line in the fourth quarter and responded with a 97-yard touchdown drive to seal an eventual 20-6 victory over Miami before a crowd of 56,919.

The Wolfpack improved to 6-3 overall and 3-2 in ACC play. The Canes fell to 6-3 and 2-3 in conference play. The loss ended a four-game winning streak in the series for Miami.

The Canes couldn’t find the end zone for the first time this season, managing just two field goals by Andy Borregales in the first half. Miami ran 22 more plays than the Wolfpack, but State’s defense forced four turnovers and held the Canes to 4.2 yards per play and just 4 of 15 conversions on third down.

Running back Mark Fletcher, Jr. rushed for a career-high 115 yards on 23 carries. Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke completed 21 of 38 passes for 173 yards but threw three interceptions. Wide receiver Jacolby George paced Miami with five catches for 59 yards.

Safety James Williams posted five tackles, while fellow safety Kam Kinchens had two tackles and an interception. Linebacker Francisco Mauigoa added five tackles and one sack. Miami’s defense held State to only 231 total yards and just 3 of 11 on third down.

“We know we can be a really good football team,” head coach Mario Cristobal said. “We’ve shown it in spurts. We have to make sure we do our best job as an organization to get better.”

Wolfpack quarterback MJ Morris completed 11 of 21 passes for 123 yards with one touchdown and one pick. Backup signal-caller Brennan Armstrong led State in rushing with 51 yards. Wide receiver Kevin Concepcion caught five passes for 61 yards, and linebacker Payton Wilson racked up 16 tackles.

The Pack got the ball first but a face mask penalty on Morris thwarted any momentum and Miami took over at its own 27. After Fletcher moved the chains, Van Dyke connected with Young on a 10-yard run to push the ball past midfield. The drive stalled at the Pack 30 but Borregales connected from 48 yards out to give Miami a 3-0 lead.

The teams traded three-and-outs and when State got the ball back Concepcion ripped off 36 yards on a jet sweep to the Canes 36. Four plays later, Morris faked a handoff on 3rd and 1 and found running back Jordan Poole wide open down the left sideline for a 12-yard touchdown. The Pack led 7-3.

The Canes responded as Van Dyke threw a dart to George for 18 yards and Fletcher scampered 16 yards to move into State territory. Van Dyke hit George again 19 yards and a roughing the passer penalty on Pack defensive end Travali Price gave Miami a first down at the 13-yard line. But linebacker Jaylon Scott broke up Van Dyke’s third-down pass and Borregales trotted on for a 27-yard field goal to cut State’s lead to a point.

Then came the turnovers – four in four possessions to be exact.

On the next drive, State faced a 3rd and 10 from its own 38 and cornerback Jaden Davis jarred the ball loose from Morris on a corner blitz. Defensive end Jared Harrison-Hunte recovered at the Pack 29. But the Canes returned the favor when Van Dyke looked for George in the end zone and was picked off by cornerback Aydan White. The Pack took over again on its own 20.

State reached midfield but Williams blitzed and affected Morris’ deep throw, which was intercepted by a diving Kinchens at the Miami 10. Four plays later Van Dyke was sacked by defensive end Red Hibbler and fumbled. Fellow defensive end Davin Vann recovered at the Canes 9. But Miami’s defense held firm – Mauigoa sacked Morris, State committed a holding penalty and the Pack settled for a 39-yard field goal by Brayden Narveson to end the scoring for the first half.

Miami got the ball to start the second half and leaned on Fletcher, who gained 39 yards on five carries. But Borregales missed a 45-yarder – his first miss in 15 tries – and State took over at its 27.

The teams combined for five consecutive three-and-outs before Fletcher broke that run with a 13-yard run to move the chains. Van Dyke connected with Young on a 13-yard catch and run, and the Canes had a first down at the Pack 38 as the fourth quarter began.

Van Dyke hit wide receiver Xavier Restrepo in stride for 13 yards before completing a critical 3rd and 8 throw to George for 11 yards and a first down at the Pack 11. Three plays later, the Canes faced 4th and 1 but cornerback Shyheim Battle stopped Fletcher short of the sticks and State took over at the three-yard line with 9:47 remaining.

Morris connected with Concepcion for 16 yards to give the Pack some breathing room. Armstrong converted another third down with a 15-yard run and an unnecessary roughness penalty on Williams moved the ball to the Miami 40. Two plays later, running back Kendrick Raphael bounced off a tackler and raced 31 yards to the end zone to give State a 17-6 lead.

Van Dyke threw his second interception on the next series as safety Devan Boykin returned the theft to the Canes 15. State tacked on a 19-yard field goal by Narveson to provide the final margin.

Miami next heads to Tallahassee to face fourth-ranked Florida State next Saturday on ABC. Kickoff time will be announced tomorrow.