Pack falters late, falls to Hokies 41-30

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The NC State defense allowed a two-point lead to slip away in the final 90 seconds, dropping its first game of the season 41-30 to Virginia Tech on Saturday afternoon at Carter-Finley Stadium.

When Josh Czajkowski's 42-yard field goal sailed through the uprights, it looked as though NC State might continue its strong start to the season.

The field goal put the Wolfpack up 30-28 with 4:42 left in the game, but it was the last big play the Pack would make. Virginia Tech promptly marched down the field to score a go-ahead touchdown with 90 seconds left on the clock. When the Pack got the ball back on its own 11-yard line, Russell Wilson threw his third interception of the day on the first play, the Hokies followed that up with another touchdown.

By the time the clock hit zero, the final scoreboard at Carter-Finley Stadium read Virginia Tech 41, NC State 30. In a matter of seconds the Pack lost the lead and its undefeated season, dropping to 4-1 after a fourth quarter where very little went right for the Pack. All told, the Pack was outscored 20-3 in the final quarter of play and surrendered 34 second-half points in the loss.

"We played hard, but we didn't play smart." coach Tom O'Brien said.

The Pack defense, which played so well in the first four games of the year, couldn't sustain its performance for 60 minutes against the Hokies. The ground attack, along with the scrambling of Tyrod Taylor, gained 8.6 yards per carry. Darrell Evans finished with 160 yards and two touchdowns while Taylor rushed for 121 yards and threw three touchdowns.

Wilson had his worst game of the season to date despite throwing for 362 yards and three touchdowns. He threw three interceptions – including one at the end of the first half in the red zone that kept the Pack from scoring and the one in the final 90 seconds that ended all hope of a comeback. Owen Spencer and Jarvis Williams both went over 100 yards receiving while Williams added a touchdown. George Bryan and Dean Haynes also had touchdown receptions in the game.

The Pack started the game off by going deep, throwing its first pass to Jarvis Williams straight down the middle for a 31-yard reception that set the table. It was the start to a spectacular opening drive, with the Pack scoring its first touchdown on a pass from Wilson to George Bryan to take a seven-point lead.

After the two teams exchanged punts on their next two possessions, the Pack defense handed a touchdown to its offense. Tech's Tyrod Taylor threw a ball that was tipped and intercepted by the Pack's Brandon Bishop, who returned the ball all the way to the Hokies' 3-yard line. It took three plays, but the Pack punched it in on a play-fake to Dean Haynes, who faked getting the hand-off and was left uncovered before receiving his first career touchdown reception from Wilson to give the Pack a 14-0 lead.

The Pack would add three more points at the start of the second quarter, marching into Virginia Tech territory before stalling out around the 20-yard line. But Czajkowski shook off his yips from the previous weekend and nailed a 37-yard attempt to make it 17-0 in favor of the Pack.

The Hokies used the ground game to begin its comeback, as Taylor rushed for 71 yards on Tech's third drive of the second quarter to set up a 10-yard touchdown pass. The score remained unchanged until halftime, when Virginia Tech returned the opening kickoff of the second half 92 yards for a touchdown to make it a 17-13 game following a missed extra point.

But the Pack offense responded with a touchdown drive to get the lead back to double-digits, as Russell Wilson hit Williams for a 34-yard touchdown. It would be the last touchdown of the game for the Pack offense, however.

Trailing by 10, the Hokies went back to the ground game and quickly wore down the Pack defense. On the ensuing possession, Darrell Evans broke lose for a 54-yard touchdown run. The Pack hit a 32-yard field goal on its next possession, taking a 27-21 lead to the fourth quarter.

But the Hokies outscored the Pack 21-3 in the final 15 minutes, and 14-0 in the final 90 seconds. It started with a four-yard touchdown pass to give the Hokies its first lead at 28-27. But the defense came up with a big stop two possessions later, and the offense got in field goal range. Czajkowski nailed a 42-yard attempt with 4:42 left on the clock and it appeared as though the Pack might hang on for a win.

The Hokie offense, however, had little trouble getting down the field. Taylor scrambled for a big third down pick-up at midfield, and two plays later tossed a 39-yard pass for a touchdown to put the visitors up 34-30. The Pack had 1:27 left on the clock to try a comeback attempt, but all hopes of a Pack comeback were dashed when Wilson threw a jump ball on State's first play that was intercepted by the Hokies to essentially end the game. Evans added another touchdown run to make the final score 41-30.

Checking in at 4-1 on the season, NC State must regroup and prepare for Boston College. The Eagles come in to Carter-Finley Stadium next Saturday following back-to-back losses to Virginia Tech and Notre Dame at home.

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