Brissett threw just 11 passes, through three went for short touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Wolfpack’s defensive front mauled the Tar Heels (6-6, 4-4) in a surprisingly one-sided performance against an offense that had been rolling coming into the game.
UNC finished with 207 total yards, 30 on the ground, and didn’t score until getting a meaningless touchdown with 1:48 left.
And quarterback Marquise Williams found himself under constant pressure before the Wolfpack ultimately knocked him from the game with an apparent right-leg injury early in the second half.
N.C. State finished with four sacks and 10 tackles for loss, repeatedly swallowing up running plays and swarming around Williams or backup Mitch Trubisky. The Wolfpack led 21-0 by halftime in a performance that ended up looking a lot like a 41-10 win here in 2008 when Russell Wilson was the quarterback and Tom O’Brien was coach — complete with the Wolfpack celebrating late in Kenan Stadium after the home fans had long since fled for the exits.
Now second-year coach Dave Doeren has his first win against the rival Tar Heels, snapping a two-game skid in the series with the most impressive win of his brief tenure in nearby Raleigh.
North Carolina entered this game with a lot of momentum after a lopsided win against another rival, Duke, last week. Yet the Tar Heels looked nothing like that team, while the Wolfpack looked more than ready after a week off.
Brissett scored on a 17-yard keeper to start the game, had five runs of at least 16 yards and had a 60-yard run to set up Thornton’s short touchdown late in the first half.
N.C. State had just one 100-yard individual rushing performance all year, but Brissett (115) and Thornton (106) had reached that mark by halftime.
By the end, Brissett had set the program’s single-game rushing record for quarterbacks and N.C. State had its first back-to-back 300-yard rushing games since 1981.
Williams — one of the league leaders in rushing, passing and total offense — threw for 97 yards on 11-for-22 passing and ran for just 11 yards while taking three sacks.
The last came when T.Y. McGill slammed Williams down as he tried to escape in the open field with 12:29 left in the third quarter.
Williams stayed down briefly before slowly walking off the field. He was eventually carted to a nearby tunnel for evaluation, and was spotted walking gingerly along the sideline back to UNC’s locker room at the opposite end of the field late in the quarter.