Eugene Leads Pack Past Heels, 31-27

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Jamelle Eugene rushed for 159 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner, as the Pack downed its arch-rival 31-27 on Saturday afternoon at Carter-Finley Stadium.

NC State looked doomed to suffer another heart-breaking loss to its arch-rival. Then DeMario Pressley picked the Wolfpack's hopes off his shoe tops.

After leading the entire game, Pack quarterback Daniel Evans threw a pass that Carolina's Kendric Burney ran back for a 76-yard touchdown to put the Heels up 27-24 at Carter-Finley Stadium. With its 14-point halftime lead now a three-point deficit and Carolina holding possession, it appeared as though the Pack had let another win slip away to the Heels.

But on 3rd-and-10 from their own 32 yard line, Tar Heel quarterback T.J. Yates dropped back to pass and was hit by Willie Young as he threw. The popped out of his hands low and looked like it was about to hit the turf when Pressley snatched it up. Jamelle Eugene carried the offense from there, rushing on six straight plays before finally punching it home to put the Pack up for good.

"It wasn't too hard," Pressley said. "I've got great hands."

Up four with under two minutes, things still didn't come easy though. The Heels got all the way down to the Pack 7-yard line before Yates threw incomplete on fourth down to end the game. It was heart-wrenching and anything but easy, but in the end it was a statement win for Tom O'Brien and the Wolfpack.

"It alls adds up to a great day," head coach Tom O'Brien said.

The win also means that the Pack (5-5, 3-3 ACC), the same team that started the season 1-5, now just needs one win to become bowl eligible. After the game the whole team went over to the corner of the stadium that houses the student section and celebrated its first victory over the Tar Heels (3-7, 2-4) since 2003.

Eugene led the way for the Pack, rushing for 159 yards on 32 rushes and three touchdowns. He also caught six passes for 33 yards while Marcus Stone led all receivers with six catches for 68 yards and a touchdown.

"[Eugene] is a workhorse – a straight-up thoroughbred," offensive lineman Kalani Heppe said. "He's a pleasure to block for."

Evans finished the game 26-for-42 with one touchdown and two interceptions. Both picks were returned for touchdown – one went 76 yards and the other 92 yards for scores that gave the Heels 14 easy points.

"I was just relieved [at the end]," Evans said. "I knew if we didn't pull that one off I was going to be the goat."

The Wolfpack defense started the game off with a big play, as DaJuan Morgan picked off the first pass of the day from UNC quarterback T.J. Yates. The Pack offense took advantage of the good field position, moving the ball into field goal range and Steven Hauschka continued his stellar season by putting through a 40-yard field goal to give State the early advantage.

After forcing the Tar Heels to punt on the ensuing possession, the Pack put together and impressive 88-yard drive to make the score 10-0. The Heels used a six-man front for the entire drive, and the Pack took advantage by calling seven running plays on the 10-play drive. Eugene rushed for 52 yards on the drive and finished it off with a 4-yard run up the middle for the score.

Carolina failed to score again on its next possession, missing a 52-yard field goal attempt wide left and giving the ball back to the Pack offense. The Wolfpack plowed right through the Carolina defense for a second straight possession, this time through the air. Evans completed six passes on the drive for 52 yards, and Eugene finishing things off with another power rush into the endzone.

The Pack forced another punt and got a big Darrell Blackman return all the way to the Carolina 26-yard line. But just as the Pack looked like it might turn the game into a blowout, Evans tried to force a throw on third down and ended up throwing into the waiting hands of Carolina's Charles Brown. In the blink of an eye, Brown was trotting into the endzone and changing the face of the game. The Pack responded with a quick three-and-out, and the Heels scored again on a field goal to pull within seven points.

But just when it appeared the Pack might fold its lead, they responded with another scoring drive to go back up by 14 points. The drive was highlighted by two bigs plays, as Marcus Stone hauled in a reception on 3rd-and-six to keep the series alive. Then Donald Bowens pulled down a pass and ran down field for a 32-yard gain. Evans finished off the drive by throwing to a wide open Stone in the endzone for a 14-yard touchdown and make the score 24-10 at the half.

Both teams punted twice to start the second half, but Carolina pulled back within a score thanks to a trick play. Yates handed the ball off to fullback Bobby Rome, who pulled up and lobbed a pass to a wide open Brandon Tate streaking down the field. Tate pulled down the pass and trotted into the endzone to make the score 24-17 in favor of the Pack.

The Pack offense went stagnant after the score, giving the Tar Heels great field possession on two consecutive drives. While the defense managed to hold them back the first time, the Heels managed a 27-yard field goal on the next drive to pull within four points of the Pack. Then, disaster struck again as Daniel Evans had yet another ball intercepted, this time on a tipped pass that ended up in the hands of Kendrick Burney. Once again, in the blink of an eye Burney was trotted into the endzone – this time to give Carolina a 27-24 lead until the Pack pulled off its improbable comeback.

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