Special Teams, Defense Lead Wolfpack To Win

RALEIGH, NC -- NC State, behind a stingy defense and another strong performance from Andre Brown, defeated Middle Tennessee State 24-3, keeping their bowl hopes alive.

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    Brown finished with 94 yards and a touchdown, and the Wolfpack front seven kept pressure on Middle Tennessee State quarterback Clint Marks all day while keeping the Blue Raiders out of the endzone despite numerous drives into the redzone.

    "We went out there, and we ran the ball a couple of times," said Brown. "We ran it well. We ended up going into the endzone, and they started stacking the box. That opened up the passing routes, and we started to throw the ball more."

    "They didn't get in the endzone," junior defensive end Mario Williams said. "We had a lot of redzone stops.

    "When they get inside the twenty you can't let them score. That's crunchtime. When you're in there, their motor is running. We've got to exceed their intensity and stop them."

    "Our defense plays good in the redzone," Pack head coach Chuck Amato said. "It's done it all year. It did it down at Florida State. It did it up at Boston College. It's done it all year in the redzone."

    The special teams also played a major role in the Wolfpack victory, with a blocked punt by redshirt freshman DaJuan Morgan and a long Brown kickoff return leading to both of NC State's offensive scoring drives.

    Morgan, a redshirt freshman safety who also led the Wolfpack defensively with a career-high 13 tackles, blocked a punt late in the second quarter, and Brian Clark recovered at the Blue Raider 10-yard line. A play later, Brown's touchdown run gave the Wolfpack a 10-3 lead and all the momentum going into halftime.

    "Once I got back there and knew it was one-on-one with the personal protector I knew I was going to beat him," Morgan said. "I'm a personal protector myself so I know what guys don't like back there. I just looked for that block point, and I blocked the punt.

    "I think that was a momentum-changer. That was the game. Everybody was fired up. Once I got that blocked punt, there was so much energy on the field. That just helped us. I knew the offense... one, two, three into the endzone."

    "We needed something, there's no doubt," Amato said. "That was it. That ignited everybody. What better time can you have a block punt than that? That's what playing football is all about."

    Brown flashed his explosiveness on the opening kickoff of the second half, nearly returning the kick for a score before being tackled by the kicker at the 50-yard line. Sophomore quarterback Marcus Stone, becoming known for his second half performances, completed two-of-two passes on the drive, including a six-yard strike to tight end T.J. Williams in the corner of the endzone that gave the Wolfpack a commanding 17-3 lead.

    Minutes later NC State would add another score, as outside linebacker Stephen Tulloch picked off a pass and out-ran two Blue Raider receivers to the endzone for a 50-yard interception return.

    "I guess he hesitated and didn't see me, and I picked it off," said Tulloch. "The rest is history... I took it back for a touchdown.

    "I don't know who was behind me, but I just tried to get there. I saw a bunch of green and I just tried to get to the endzone."

    "Don't let him know [he's fast]," Amato said. "He'll want people to push him for all-conference corner.

    "Stephen Tulloch is an outstanding football player. Stephen Tulloch has got instincts. Stephen Tulloch knows where the football is and he goes and gets it. He's a football player. Nothing he does changes my mind about the type of player he is. You know what? I'll take all the linebackers in the country that play like him."

    Middle Tennessee State could never put anymore points on the board despite sustaining drives deep into Wolfpack territory. NC State utilized a three-man front with seven defensive backs and three safeties on third down, the same formation used to confuse Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford in Tallahassee.

    One of those safeties was Bobby Washington, a sophomore receiving his first action at the position after moving over from running back last week. Washington finished with a tackle and a quarterback hurry, but was happy to just play.

    "This can be the biggest role I've played in a long time," Washington said. "I think it will work out very well. Maybe I can go to the next level playing this position."

    Earlier in the week a report surfaced that Washington was considering transferring due to a lack of playing time. For the first time, he discussed the situation with the media.

    "It was true because I wasn't playing," Washington said. "Everybody was asking questions about why I wasn't playing.

    "I'm going to make this my home. I'm going to make this my home. I think I was very good out there and I'm feeling comfortable. I love these group of guys. I've been around them a long time, and I think I'm going to stay with them."

    "Bobby's such a great young man," Amato said. "He really is. He's got an awful lot of talent. He's learning back there... believe me he's learning. He just wants to play.

    "This young man loves this university, and he's found kind of a home here. It's good to see him back there. He had the biggest smile on his face. Those gold teeth were just all over the place."

    NC State (5-5) now must beat Maryland (5-5) next Saturday to become bowl eligible. Both teams will be looking for a win to return to the postseason after missing out last year.

    "Obviously we're proud of this and now next week we've got two teams coming here to Carter-Finley Stadium that are 5-5," Amato said. "Two teams that had gone to four bowls in a row. Two teams that did not go to a bowl last year. Two teams that are going to fight their brains out to get bowl eligible. What better place for us to be than here?"

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