McKever: "We Needed This"

Pharoah McKever was recruited to NC State with the hope that he would use his speed to beat defenders in the open field and reach the end zone.

Pharoah McKever was recruited to NC State with the hope that he would use his speed to beat defenders in the open field and reach the end zone.

On Saturday at Syracuse he did just that, although not the way his coaches envisioned when he committed to the Wolfpack.

"[McKever] was a wide receiver," Doeren quipped when asked about the redshirt freshman’s 82-yard interception return that changed the momentum of the game and helped NC State defeat Syracuse, 24-17.

After playing quarterback in high school, the Tabor City, North Carolina native (by way of New York) was on the scout team as a wide receiver while sitting out the 2013 season.

“We were in a zone-blitz,” Doeren added. “Pharoah was the drop-end, and he was dropping over the tailback on the play. He was just in the hole and the quarterback didn’t see him.”

McKever’s play came at a critical time for the Wolfpack.

With State trailing by five with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Orange were driving and seemed poised to extend its lead to double-digits and hand the Pack another conference loss. The ensuing interception return to the end zone, the sixth-longest in school histoy, instead put NC State back on top to stay.

"When I got the ball, my intention was to just go, go, go," McKever said. "I was just taking it one play at a time, and we were taking what they would give us. I jumped in the quarterback's lane. I haven’t run that far in a long time. I saw it, and I was like ‘Pick-6, Pick-6.’ It feels good to do it back in New York."

Interestingly, McKever, who was one of seven players suspended for the game at Louisville, had only played in five games this season prior to the matchup with the Orange. Doeren saw something the previous week that gave him the idea to give his freshman defensive end eextended playing time in the Carrier Dome.

"Pharoah’s play was awesome," Doeren said. "That was a great football play. [The coaching staff] was sitting in the office, he was in practice and he was making some things happen. He wasn’t getting a lot of playing time and I said, ‘I want him in this package, and if he screws up you can blame me.’ I called him and I told him I have his back and he said, ‘I have your back all the way, Coach.’"

It is a win that not only ends a losing streak in conference play that was becoming an albatross both on the team and among Wolfpack faithful, the victory also gives NC State a legitimate shot to reach postseason play this season.

"We needed this," McKever said after the game. "It is our first ACC win. It stung going winless last year. We were winless coming into this game. Our intentions from the very start were to come in here tonight and get this one."

For his head coach, it was a play that transcends just changing the complexion on one game. It also is tangible proof that hard work will be rewarded, both individually and at the team level.

"It is gratifying," Doeren said. "Those are the moments as a coach that I will remember when you ask me about the season I will remember that play."

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