In its first overtime game in more than two years, NC State (5-2, 2-1) could not replicate the overtime success it had against ECU in 2008, when the Wolfpack beat the Pirates 30-24 in Raleigh.
Despite forcing four East Carolina (4-2, 3-0) turnovers, two of which came in the red zone, the Wolfpack could not take advantage and put points up on an ECU defense ranked near the bottom of the FBS standings in several major categories. Three interceptions and a fumble by Russell Wilson proved to be the difference in the Pirates victory, the last of which came in overtime when NC State had a chance to win the game.
Head coach Tom O'Brien took nothing away from the Pirates and credited ECU for making the plays late to win the game.
"You have to give East Carolina credit, they made plays there in the overtime period which ended up winning the game," he said. ""Our kids got so far behind, fought back, but couldn't get over the hump there at the end. We have to regroup and get ready for out next one. We need some time off."
After choosing to play defense first in the extra session and allowing ECU to score, NC State was given a glimmer of hope when the Pirates missed the extra point that would have put them up seven. NC State needed a touchdown and extra point to seal the victory. Four plays later, however, it was ECU who sealed the game with an interception in the end zone by Damon Magazu. It was that sort of day for the Wilson and the Wolfpack.
"I'm trying to get in the end zone, it's 3rd and 13 or whatever," Wilson said of the final play in overtime. "It was a good play by the kid. I just missed it, just barely."
Despite being behind by as much as 21 points in the first half, NC State took its first lead of the game with 2:59 remaining in the fourth quarter when Josh Czajkowski hit a field goal from 37 yards out to make the score 27-24. ECU tied the game with two minutes later when Mike Barbour hit from 31.
In the overtime ECU quarterback Dominique Davis took the ball in from one-yard out to give the Pirates the victory. Davis, who looked comfortable in the pocket for much of the game, completed 37 of his 53 attempts for 376 yards and two touchdowns without throwing an interception.
Despite giving up 21 points in the first quarter, NC State's defense played well and forced four fumbles, giving the Wolfpack plenty of chances to put points on the scoreboard. It wasn't until the second quarter that Russell Wilson was able to find T.J. Graham for a 49-yard touchdown to make the score 21-7. The Wolfpack would score again four minutes later to pull within seven.
ECU would go up by 10 again in the second quarter before Dean Haynes pulled the Pack to within three at 24-21 just before halftime.
By the break it appeared that the NC State offense had found its rhythm and the defense had figured out how to stop ECU's short passing attack.
In the second half, however, neither team could get back into any sort of rhythm, with both squads failing to score in the third quarter. Inconsistent play from both offenses kept the game close during the second half, a half when both teams had chances to pull away.
NC State tied the game with 11:47 left in the fourth quarter when Josh Czajkowski hit from 22 yards out to make it 24 all.
Wilson finished the game 26 of 52 for 322 yards and a touchdown, but the Wolfpack could not overcome his three interceptions. The 322-yard effort was Wilson's 10th 300-yard game of his career and sixth of the 2010 season.
Mustafa Greene and Dean Haynes combined for 113 yards rushing on 26 carries on the afternoon.
Although the NC State defense was able to keep ECU out of the end zone for the final three quarters of the game, the Wolfpack gave up a season-high 496 total yards and allowed ECU to have more than 42 minutes. Earl Wolff finished with a team-high 14 tackles while linebacker Audi Cole added nine.
Senior tackle Jake Vermiglio said he was impressed with the way ECU played throughout the game.
"They are high motor guys and they played really hard. Credit to them, they played their hearts out," he said.
Coming into NC State's midseason non-conference matchup with in-state rival East Carolina, NC State had been the team forcing turnovers and capitalizing on its opponents mistakes. On Saturday, however, it was the Wolfpack turning it over which led to its second loss of 2010.
NC State will take next week off before welcoming ACC Atlantic Division leader Florida State to Carter-Finley Stadium October 28.
"We certainly can use some time now to get some guys healed and get ready for a Thursday night game," O'Brien said.