Led by Bowens, who hauled in 11 catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns, NC State upset No. 15 Virginia by a 29-24 on Saturday night at Carter-Finley Stadium. The Wolfpack picked up its first ACC win and second straight victory while snapping Virginia's seven game win streak.
Playing in the place of injured senior John Dunlap, Bowens set career highs in every category imaginable. He pulled down touchdown receptions of 30 and 40 yards, with his 202 yards marking the fifth highest single-game total in school history.
"I've always said that you have to grab on to opportunities that present themselves and he's an example of that," O'Brien said. "Donald got an opportunity and seized it. Tonight, he made some great grabs and gave a lot of effort."
Daniel Evans threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns in the win, getting plenty of time to sit in the pocket and find open receivers despite playing behind a patch-work offensive line. The line also opened up holes for Jamelle Eugene, who ran for 112 yards on the day for the Pack (3-5, 1-3 ACC). The Pack lineman also kept Virginia (7-2, 4-1 ACC) defensive end Chris Long at bay, as the All-American recorded no sacks during the game.
"As a whole I think the offensive line did a phenomenal job," Stone said. "Daniel had time to set his feet and make some big-time throws."
The defense also came up big for the Pack, recording six sacks and picking off Virginia quarterback Jameel Sewell twice in the win. Dajuan Morgan nabbed one pick and led the team with 12 tackles, Jeremy Gray added another pick while Willie Young led the defensive line with 2.5 sacks.
"We just executed our plays," Morgan said. "Any defensive coach called if everybody does their job things are going to happen and tonight we did that."
The Wolfpack wasted no time getting on the scoreboard thanks to its defense. Juan Morgan picked off Sewell's first pass of the game on third down. The pick gave the Pack possession inside Cavalier territory, and Evans took advantage with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Donald Bowens on third down to put the Pack up 7-0.
The Cavs and Pack traded field goals after the first touchdown, with Chris Gould kicking a 23-yarder after a Virginia drive stalled at the Pack's 6-yard line. Steven Hauschka answered with a 30-yard field goal – the key play of the drive coming when Marcus Stone stretched out his arms and pulled in a 21-yard catch to move into Virginia terriroty. The Pack made it 13-3 mid-way with five minutes left in the second quarter with a 42-yard field goal.
The two offenses lit up the last five minutes of the half, with Virginia getting the scoring started. On just six plays, the Cavaliers marched down the field and put up its first touchdown and Sewell hit Mikell Simpson on a screen pass and the running back scrambled 13 yards for the score to pull Virginia within three points.
But the Pack answered right back on a quick five play drive ending with a 25-yard strike from Evans to Koyal George. It was the first touchdown of George's career and put the Pack back up by 10 for a whole minute. Virginia would get in the last lick of the half, taking just one minute to march down the field for a touchdown, as Sewell hit Cary Koch in the corner of the endzone for a 7-yard score.
Some misfortune cost the Pack another touchdown on its opening drive of the second half. On 3rd-and-1, Jamelle Eugene took the hand-off and broke to the outside, juking past the Virginia defense and giving himself a clear path to the endzone. But as he sprinted inside the 10-yard line, Eugene lost his balance and fell untouched at two yards short of the goal line. The Pack picked up a false start on the next play and wouldn't find the endzone the rest of the drive, settling for 23-yard field goal to make it 23-17 in favor of State.
That stumble would prove costly, as the Cavaliers would go ahead by one point at the start of the fourth quarter. A punt catch interference penalty gave the Cavs possession in State territory and they took advantage, with Mikell Simpson punching in a touchdown from the 5-yard line to make it 24-23 in favor of Virginia.
Trailing for the first time in the game, the Pack didn't falter. Instead, they went back to Bowens, as Evans found the big receiver down the right sideline for a 30-yard score. Following a failed two-point conversion, the Pack led by a 29-24 margin that would hold until the final whistle.