Pack Loses Wilson, Opener 34-0

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- NC State lost Russell Wilson to a concussion on a scary hit that left the quarterback motionless for several seconds, and the Pack offense was completely silent as State dropped its opener by a 34-0 score.

Russell Wilson's first career start ended in tragedy, with the redshirt freshman being carted off the field in a stretcher. A vicious knee to the back of the head in the second quarter left Wilson unconscious and unresponsive for several minutes before he was put on the stretcher. The quarterback gave a thumbs-up to the camera as he left the field, and he was taken to the hospital after being diagnosed with a concussion.

NC State was driving when Wilson went down, and the Wolfpack offense seemed to never recover from the incident. Untimely turnovers, bad snaps and bad throws gave the South Carolina offense just enough as the Gamecocks took the opening game of the 2008 season by a 34-0 score on Thursday night in Columbia.

The Pack lost despite a dominating performance by its defense – which had four interceptions and limited the Gamecocks offense. But it wasn't enough to overcome the offensive ineptitude, which had only 49 passing yards, four turnovers of its own and two turnovers inside its own 20-yard line to gift-wrap South Carolina with 10 points. The defense wore down in the fourth quarter, as it entered the final fifteen minutes giving up just 161 yards of total offense.

The two teams traded short series for most of the first half, as the Pack defense made a series of big plays to keep South Carolina at bay. On the first series of the game Jimmaul Simmons hauled in an errant pass from Beecher, grabbing an interception on his first college snap. The Pack got great field position but was unable to capitalize, turning the ball over on downs.

The two teams traded punts for the next few series before Andre Brown coughed up the ball near midfield to halt a Wolfpack drive. But the Gamecocks returned the favor thanks to Nate Irving, who picked a pass out of the air from Beecher inside the Pack's 40-yard line to keep the score knotted at nothing. Beecher threw one more pick late in the second quarter, as Justin Byers stepped in front of the long pass down the middle of the field for a pick.

State's best drive of the half took a tragic turn when Wilson was hit, taking a knee to the back of the head that left him motionless for several minutes before being taken off the field in on a stretcher. Evans couldn't recapture the momentum of the drive, and a 49-yard field goal attempt by Josh Czajkowski came up short.

But ultimately the costliest penalty of the half came not from one of Beecher's three interceptions, but from the Pack's back-up center, Andy Barbee. With under two minutes left in the half, Barbee's snap to Evans was way off, and Evans attempt a kick-save was unsuccessful as the Gamecocks jumped on the ball at the Pack 12-yard line. The defense held, but South Carolina still nabbed a 3-0 halftime lead on a 29-yard field goal by Ryan Succop.

In the second half, Daniel Evans made his own costly mistake. On the Pack's second play of the half, Evans threw an interception that gave the Gamecocks the ball at the Wolfpack 9-yard line. Four plays later, South Carolina punched in a one-yard run to give them a 10-0 lead and gave the home team firm control of the game. The Gamecocks finally scored a sustained drive late in the third quarter, getting another field goal to make it 13-0.

The South Carolina offense hit its stride in the fourth quarter when Chris Smelley took over for an injured Beecher. Smelley hit a wide-open Dion LeCorn in the endzone for a 20-yard touchdown that made it a 20-0 game in favor of the Gamecocks. South Carolina added two more touchdowns in the quarter to turn a close game into a 34-0 blow-out.

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