And though the offense was much sharper than it had been through the first two weeks, it again was the defense that helped set the tone.
Cincinnati went to the no-huddle offense early in the game, hoping to take advantage of those tired legs that coach Tom O'Brien spent the early part of the week publicly worrying about. But the defense controlled the game, shutting down the Bearcats attack and leading the way to victory.
State next takes the field against Georgia Tech on Saturday. Unlike last week, the Pack will be well rested, thanks to that Thursday night kickoff a week ago. Then again, at this point he might consider that to be a bad thing.
--WR Jarvis Williams led the Wolfpack with 111 yards receiving on four receptions. All four catches came in the first half.
--North Carolina State's defense surrendered 385 total yards, but that's a little misleading. Cincinnati got 167 of those yards in the fourth quarter, when the game was already all but decided.
GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Russell Wilson -- So much for being rusty. After struggling for the first two weeks, Wilson threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Wolfpack jump on top of the visiting Bearcats from the opening minutes.
KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Mustafa Greene -- Greene continues to run the ball well in his freshman season. He scored a touchdown for the third consecutive game in the Wolfpack's victory over Cincinnati, the first freshman to do so for the Pack since Joe McIntosh in 1981.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're playing fast. Everybody knows what to do and where we're supposed to be, and we're getting it done." -- Linebacker Terrell Manning told the Raleigh News & Observer, on the performance of his defense.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The offense! After two weeks of sputtering, the Pack passing attack was in midseason form, keeping the Bearcats off-balance and giving State an advantage they would never relinquish. The defense, meanwhile, didn't allow Cincinnati to control the tempo, slowing down the no-huddle attack and avoiding surrendering the big plays that the Bearcats traditionally use to put up points quickly.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The running game is still a work in progress, and Dean Haynes' two fumbles probably means they'll be a change in the rotation next week. While the defense was excellent most of the night, it did let down in the fourth quarter, and had the game been closer things might have gotten a little too exciting for comfort in Raleigh.
ROSTER REPORT: --OT R.J. Mattes returned from a knee injury to play for the first time this season. He replaced Gary Gregory at left tackle early in the game.
--LT Mikel Overgaard missed the Cincinnati game with an elbow injury suffered against Central Florida. Gary Gregory replaced him in the starting lineup.
--RB Dean Haynes, a converted defensive back, has been starting at tailback for the Wolfpack, but may have squandered the opportunity. He was replaced after losing a pair of first-half fumbles, and with Mustafa Greene running well and Curtis Underwood now healthy, he could find fewer opportunities for carries.