The Cardinals started fast. Louisville opened the game with a 75-yard drive that culminated in a 13-yard touchdown pass from redshirt sophomore Will Gardner to senior Eli Rogers with 11:06 remaining in the first quarter.
Gardner finished 21-of-36 for 203 yards and two touchdowns. DeVante Parker hauled in nine passes for 132 yards. N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren singled out the senior from Louisville for special praise.
“Parker had a huge impact for them offensively,” Doeren said. “We did not take him away. He did a nice job.”
N.C. State’s offense, which stalled for the final three quarters against Boston College last Saturday, moved the ball with some efficiency on its opening drive. The Pack drive stalled however at the Louisville 25, and State turned it over on downs.
The Wolfpack broke through with 2:57 left in the opening quarter when junior quarterback Jacoby Brissett fires to sophomore tight end David J. Grinnage on a wonderful misdirection play that went 16 yards for the score. Senior Niklas Sade missed the extra point and State trailed by one point heading into the second quarter.
After a Louisville field goal, the Pack appeared set to go into the locker room at halftime trailing by four. The Cardinals, however, had other ideas and after senior running back Michael Dyer carried for 27 yards to move the ball to the State 2-yard line. Three plays later, Gardner completed to redshirt-senior Kai De La Cruz for a three-yard touchdown and the Cards extended its advantage to 11 points.
Sade rebounded to connect on a 48-yard field goal, which cut Louisville’s lead to 17-9 with 7:06 left in the third quarter. The Cardinals responded with a 38-yard field goal from junior John Wallace to hold an 11-point advantage heading into final period.
After driving the ball to the one-yard line, N.C. State had to settle for a field goal from Sade with less than 10 minutes remaining to once again cut the Cardinals’ lead to one score. Louisville again answered back with a 45-yard shot from Wallace after the Wolfpack burned its final two timeouts to give Louisville a double-digit lead again.
The Pack closed the gap when Brissett connected with Grinnage for a second touchdown pass, this time from 21-yards. The ensuing two-point conversion failed and State trailed, 23-18, with 2:21 left.
It was the biggest game individually in the Grinnage’s college career. The native of Newark, Del had two career touchdowns—including one against Boston College in the Pack’s previous game—before doubling his total against Louisville. He caught three passes for 43 yards. “I feel more confident than I was,” Grinnage said. “It is really not just me feeling more confidence though. It is my teammates helping me. It is up to my teammates playing together.”
After the Cards recovered an onside kick, Dyer—who finished with 181 yards on 24 carries—burst through the defense for a 46-yard touchdown romp with 44 seconds left in the contest that eliminated any remaining doubt.
Doeren spoke after the game about the Wolfpack, who entered the game short-handed after seven players were suspended for a BB gun incident, failing to capitalize on opportunities against the top-ranked Louisville defense.
“I am really proud of the way some guys played today,” Doeren said. “We are not making enough plays and obviously I have to do a better job of helping our guys make plays. [It’s] timely things, little things here and there. Louisville did a great job.”
“When you go through the adversity we have you have a chance to shrink or to grow from those moments,” Doeren added. “We are going to grow. We are going to hit the reset button this week with our bye week. We’re going to look at everything and try to get everybody back healthy, not just physically but mentally.”