NC State (8-3, 5-2) scored on two miraculous plays in the second half against North Carolina to pull out a 29-25 win in Chapel Hill, moving one step closer to playing for an ACC Championship game in Charlotte Dec. 4. The improbable come-from-behind win was the fourth straight in the series against the Tar Heels.
The first play, a fourth-and-goal Hail Mary from Russell Wilson to Owen Spencer, pulled NC State to within two points of the Tar Heels late in the third quarter and gave life to an NC State team that had struggled for much of the first three periods. Two minutes later, that new-found life led to an 87-yard punt return by wide receiver TJ Graham and a 24-19 lead early in the fourth quarter.
After a Josh Czajkowski field goal pushed NC State's lead to eight, North Carolina drove down the field and scored with 1:05 remaining, setting up the chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion. But on North Carolina's last ditch effort, NC State's defense stood tall, knocking away a pass which looked almost identical to Wilson's earlier heave.
North Carolina got the ball back with under a minute down just two, but a sack by Terrell Manning and safety sealed the win. Heading into the final game of the season against Maryland in College Park, NC State controls its own destiny in the Atlantic Division. A win and the Wolfpack is in.
Russell Wilson and the NC State offense struggled for much of the afternoon, gaining just 275 yards on 62 plays, but Wilson's toss to Spencer and Graham's return proved to be all the Wolfpack needed against the Heels.
NC State's defense forced field goals on four different occasions, allowing the Wolfpack to stay in the game until the offense came to life late in the third quarter. Those stops, and the constant pressure the Pack put on TJ Yates in the second half, proved to be the key to NC State's comeback.
Yates finished the game 33 of 44 passing for 411 yards and became Carolina's all-time leading passer, but the Tar Heels netted negative seven rushing years on 26 carries. NC State's defense recorded seven sacks for 55 yards.
North Carolina got on the board first when TJ Yates hit Anthony Elzy from seven yards out to cap off an 81-yard drive with 4:34 left in the first quarter. Elzy accounted for 88 yards on the drive and caught passes of 52, 20 and seven yards.
Yates started the game with 13 straight completions and passed for 139 yards in the first quarter alone. He finished the half 17 for 22 for 210 yards and the touchdown to Elzy.
NC State tied the score at seven when Russell Wilson hit Darrell Davis from two yards out to cap off an 87 yard drive at the 10:30 mark of the second quarter. A 48-yard strike from Wilson to Spencer highlighted the nine-play drive.
North Carolina took a 13-10 lead into the half after the teams traded field goals in the final three minutes of the second quarter. Casey Barth hit from 19 and 48 yards while Czajkowski hit a 47-yard attempt just two weeks after many thought he would be lost for the season due to a hamstring injury.
Two more field goals from Barth pushed the lead to 19-10 with 4:38 remaining in the third quarter before Wilson and company started to change the tide. Wilson scrambled for a first down on third and 18 just four plays before his pass to Spencer.
Carolina picked up one first down on its ensuing possession before NC State got two sacks in three plays, setting up Graham's return. 87 yards later, NC State had its first lead and all the momentum it would need to secure the win.