NC State fans got their first look at new coach Tom O'Brien's team on Saturday afternoon when the Red and White teams faced off in the annual spring game.
O'Brien divided his squad into two teams and played four quarters, though some players switched sides at halftime. There were no kickoffs or punts, as the ball was just moved up 35 yards on fourth down and given to the other team. For the record, the Red team won by a 35-31 score thanks to a pair of late touchdown passes from Daniel Evans to Darrell Blackman.
"If we compete the way we competed there at the end today we are going to win some football games here," O'Brien said.
The team said it hasn't had trouble adjusting to the coaching style of O'Brien and his staff, are working with the players for the first time this spring.
"Football is football, there's not a whole lot you can do to change it," Evans said. "There's just a different attitude around here."
Evans started the game for the Red team, while red-shirt freshman Justin Burke started for the the White squad. Harrison Beck, a sophomore transfer from Nebraska, played with the White team in the first half and switched sidelines at halftime. All three quarterbacks are battling it out for the starting position next fall.
"We don't have any idea [who will start]," Burke said. "Every decision we make is scrutinized. When you've got the competition you've got pressure from the other two guys and you want to make a good decision every time. I think that makes you a better quarterback."
Evans had the best performance of the three, hitting on 20-of-34 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns. Evans had a 19-yard touchdown pass to John Dunlap in the second quarter, then threw hit Blackman with a 50-yard touchdown with under three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and the Red team down by 10. Evans completed the comeback for the Red squad with a 8-yard toss to Blackman with 16 seconds left to play.
Burke was 13-of-24 for 121 and a touchdown but threw three interceptions, with strong safety Javon Walker picking off the freshman twice. Beck finished a combined 7-of-26 for 116 yards, throwing an interception to free safety Jimmaul Simmons that the freshman returned 100 yards for a touchdown.
"We all made some dumb decisions, we all made some really good ones," Burke said. "The better each ones of us plays the better this team is going to get – that's the great thing about this competition."
The running backs did most of the heavy lifting on offense, as the three-headed monster of Jamelle Eugene, Toney Baker and Andre Brown showed off their mixture of power, speed and agility on the field.
"There is no question, this offense is built around the running back," Brown said. "All three of our backs can run the ball well, we can all makes plays and help the team win."
Eugene showed off his speed, rushing for 174 yards on 15 carries but fumbling twice. Baker was the workhorse for the White team, rushing 23 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Andre Brown split time between the teams, finishing with 11 carries for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
Blackman led the receiving crew with six catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns. John Dunlap added six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown, while Donald Bowens had seven catches for 69 yards and a score.