No. 20 NC State rallied with two goals in the final 14 minutes to stun No. 14 South Carolina, 2-1, at Dail Soccer Stadium in a nonconference tilt. The Wolfpack improved to 7-2-3 on the season while the Gamecocks dropped to 7-4-1.
Zach Knudson, who had previously assisted on Peterson’s goal, made a scintillating run through the Gamecock defense and then used his left foot to slip the ball past the keeper into the net with only three minutes remaining in regulation.
“I was just going and I didn’t realize I was that close to the goal,” Knudson said. “Next thing I know, I am in front and I just have to tap it in.”
“I do it in FIFA,” Knudson added, jokingly, of his moves in the box. “That is where I got it.”
A header in the 76th minute from Ryan Peterson leveled the score after South Carolina struck first when Jeffrey Torda headed in a corner in the 46th following a scoreless first half.
It was NC State’s first win over a ranked nonconference opponent since an overtime win over No. 9 SMU on September 2, 2011.
“They are a ranked opponent, it’s a high RPI game, and they are a very good team,” NC State head coach Kelly Findley said. “It is a huge win for us, especially to come back. I think we’ve shown that character all year. Guys didn’t panic. They kept playing and we scored two great goals.”
The Wolfpack outshot South Carolina, 15-7, overall, including a, 12-3, advantage in the second half. Torda’s header was the only shot the Gamecocks mustered on goal in the contest.
“If you want to dominate, you have got to have the ball a lot and press right away,” Findley said. “That is exactly how the game should go. You should score goals in the last 10 minutes because you have it and they can’t keep up.”
The game had familiar tone to it prior to the frantic final quarter-hour and even after Peterson’s goal as NC State had battled to draws against Louisville, Notre Dame, and Wake Forest in its last three contests.
“I am disappointed to give up another goal on a corner,” Findley said. “You have got to be able to defend that.”
Trailing by a goal, NC State nearly saw its hopes for earning a positive result dashed when South Carolina pushed forward into the Wolfpack box on the counterattack. A diving tackle from Reed Norton helped prevent a second score in what was one of the more critical moments in the game.
The victory was the first for the Wolfpack since a, 4-3, triumph over Gardner-Webb on September 22nd. With the comeback, NC State also earned its first win over a ranked opponent since the Pack prevailed, 2-1, at home over No. 5 Louisville last season.
NC State next travels to Durham Friday to face its Triangle-rival Duke. With four games remaining in the regular season, the Wolfpack continue to fight for its fourth postseason appearance since 1994 and its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2009--which is also the last year State defeated the Blue Devils.