PARTING SHOTS: Georgia Southern

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Here are some final thoughts and observations from NC State's 24-23 win over Georgia Southern.

It wasn't pretty, but you know that NC State will take it.

The Wolfpack started slow but finished strong in the 24-23 win over Georgia Southern, scoring two late touchdowns to come back and knock off the Eagles.

Here are some final thoughts and observations on the game.

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MAN OF THE HOUR: Junior quarterback Jacoby Brissett completed 28-of-40 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. In the second half he was 18-of-23 with 213 passing yards and all three scores.

CLOSE SECOND: Matt Dayes did a little bit of everything on Saturday. The team's primary kick returner, he spent a lot of time in the backfield at tailback but also working in the slot.

Dayes finished with 34 yards rushing on six carries, but he made his biggest impact as pass-catcher, totaling 70 yards receiving on six grabs.

He came up big late, catching the game-winning touchdown on a nifty wheel route down the sideline.

It looks like Dayes is a player that NC State is hoping to get a certain amount of "touches" each week.

CLOSE THIRD: Bra'lon Cherry had just three catches for 19 yards, but two of those went for touchdowns.

He nearly had another score in the first quarter but Brissett overthrew him in the endzone.

TURNING POINT: NC State trailed 20-10 early in the fourth quarter and the Wolfpack appeared to be on the verge of going down three scores as Georgia Southern had 2nd and goal from the Pack's one-yard line. However, quarterback Kevin Ellison fumbled the snap and defensive tackle Monty Nelson recovered for the Wolfpack.

Taking over at the one-yard line, Brissett led a 12-play 99-yard drive that ended with a touchdown, cutting the lead to three points.

NC Stat was very, very close to being down 17 points, but Nelson made a huge play.

SOLID STRATEGY: NC State utilized multiple formations and a variety of personnel in the first half, but offensive coordinator Matt Canada came out in the second half and opened up the playbook for quarterback Jacoby Brissett.

The Wolfpack then turned up the tempo offensively in the fourth quarter and wore down a Georgia Southern squad that isn't deep and couldn't keep up.

NC State's players looked much fresher on both sides of the ball, and the early substituting in the first half paid off down the stretch.

NUMBERS GAME: NC State's three tailbacks totaled 24 carries for 138 yards, and the trio didn't lose a single yard on the ground.

NUMBERS GAME II: Nine different receivers caught passes for the Wolfpack, and true freshman Bo Hines led the way, finishing with nine grabs for 85 yards.

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Senior punter Wil Baumann was terrific.

He punted just three times but averaged 49.7 yards per punt with two 50+ yard punts and one downed inside the 20-yard line.

RED ZONE PRODUCTION: NC State won in the red zone.

The Wolfpack offense made just three trips into the red zone, but did come away with 14 points. The other drive ended with a turnover on downs after being unable to convert on 4th-and-1. Last year's offense struggled scoring touchdowns in the red zone, but that wasn't the case on Saturday.

Defensively, they bent but didn't break. Georgia Southern ventured into the Wolfpack's red zone four times but could only come away with three field goals. State didn't allow a touchdown and also forced a turnover with a fumble recovery at the one-yard line.

WHAT'S UP WITH?
• Allowing the big plays. Georgia Southern totaled 438 yards on 64 offensive snaps, but 231 of those yards came on just five of those plays.

• The heat. It was really, really hot in Carter-Finley Stadium.

• Bryan Underwood. The Wolfpack's top receiver, Underwood played sparingly and didn't record a catch. Did he even receive a target?

HIT SQUAD: First-time starters Dravious Wright and Jerod Fernandez registered 10 and eight tackles respectively.

HIDDEN HERO: Junior safety Hakim Jones led the Wolfpack in total tackles (11) and solo tackles (7) and he came up with a couple of huge stops.

His biggest came late in the fourth quarter. With Georgia Southern nursing a three-point lead, the Eagles had third-and-10 at the Wolfpack's 22-yard line when reserve quarterback Favian Upshaw broke through the line of scrimmage. He nearly converted the first down, but Jones was able to make a solo tackle in space, limiting him to an eight-yard gain and forcing a field goal attempt.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Sixth-year senior Jarvis Byrd didn't start, but he made plays when it counted most.

Byrd finished with just three tackles, but his pass breakup on 4th-and-7 with 1:02 remaining sealed the win for the Wolfpack.

DID YOU NOTICE?
• Senior tailback Tony Creecy saying he wanted the Wolfpack to "kick" after winning the opening kickoff? Luckily, he quickly changed it to defer to the second half or Georgia Southern could have had the option to receive the ball to start the second half.

• Redshirt sophomore Josh Sessoms wearing No. 37 after spending most of fall camp in the No. 28 jersey. Sessoms likely switched because freshman tight end/H-Back Jaylen Samuels also wears No. 28 and both players participate on special teams.

• Speaking of Samuels, he may have played just two offensive snaps but made the most of them, converting a third-down with an eight-yard run and on the next play catching a 42-yard pass.

• True freshman Tony Adams didn't play after spending most of fall camp as the projected starter at right guard. Alex Barr started at right guard and he was the Pack's starter at the position last season.

• The number of times Georgia Southern put the ball on the ground, only to recover? The Eagles had at least five fumbles, but NC State recovered just one.

• NC State wasn't officially credited with a sack although defensive linemen Mike Rose and T.Y. McGill had quarterback stops behind the line of scrimmage.

• Senior defensive Art Norman quietly had six tackles.

• NC State had just four penalties for 20 yards, a low number for a season opener.

• The Wolfpack offensive line allowed just one sack on 40+ dropback opportunities.

• NC State had nine "chunk" plays... five rushes for 10+ yards and four completed passes of 15+ yards.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: Will NC State's young defense learn from their mistakes in the season opener?


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