Win slips through Pack's fingers, 7-3

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State came tantalizing close, but dropped passes and missed opportunities led to an anemic offensive performance as the Wolfpack fell to South Carolina 7-3 on Thursday night at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Russell Wilson threw deep down the sideline to Jarvis Williams. The ball was tipped up, seemed to linger on Williams' hands for a brief moment before he tipped it again and watched it fall harmlessly to the ground.

That was NC State's night – full of near misses and what-could-have-beens. The Wolfpack handed visiting South Carolina its only points of the night in the first quarter and never got any momentum on offense, falling 7-3 on Thursday night at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Pack's offense was anemic all evening, mustering just 131 yards of total offense. They didn't cross midfield until late in the third quarter, and only then it was with the help of a pass interference call. Quarterback Russell Wilson was pedestrian, throwing for just 74 yards and no touchdowns.

Despite it all, the Pack had a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter. The Pack had the ball at midfield to start the drive thanks to a nice punt return by Rashard Smith. A pass interference penalty got the ball to the 32-yard line but Jay Smith dropped a ball in the endzone and then on 4th down and 11 yards to go, Williams couldn't come down with a jump ball near the goal line.

The Pack got off to a miserable start to the game. On the team's first play from a scrimmage, a simple hand-off to Toney Baker turned into a disaster as Baker fumbled the ball as soon as he grabbed it. The ball bounced almost instantly into the hands of an South Carolina player, who fell on it to give the Gamecocks possession on the Pack's 14-yard line.

South Carolina took advantage of the great field position, running Brian Maddox up the middle on four consecutive plays to score. The running back finished it off with a 1-yard plow up the middle to give the Gamecocks and early 7-0 advantage.

The two teams spent the next series of possessions, but the Pack kept putting its back against the wall with penalties and miscues. A blocked punt gave South Carolina great field possession but the Pack lucked out when a touchdown pass was called back on offensive pass interference. But the Pack couldn't get any offense going on its own, registering just 27 yards of total offense in the first 25 minutes of the game.

The Pack had a 38-yard pass to Owen Spencer called back because of an ineligible receiver downfield, then had to punt from its own 10-yard line. This time around the Gamecocks marched all the way to the Pack's 9-yard line, but a mishandled snap on a 31-yard field goal attempt kept the score at 7-0 heading into halftime. Mike Glennon, who O'Brien said would play in the first half, came out for the Pack's second-to-last series of the half. He was 1-2 for no yards and the Pack went three and out.

The trend continued in the second half, as the Pack's opening drive stalled quickly and gave the Gamecocks the ball in its own territory. But again South Carolina got to the 10-yard line only to miss a short field goal wide left, continuing to keep it a one-score game against the Pack. After another three-and-out from the Pack, the Gamecocks gave the Pack the break it needed when the team's newest member Michael Lemon picked off an errant pass at State's 40-yard line.

With good field position for the first time all day, the Pack finally got across midfield. It took until the 3:23 mark of the third quarter to do it, but a pass interference call on the Gamecocks got them inside South Carolina territory. After a 15-yard pass to Spencer, the drive stalled again, forcing the Pack to settle for a 42-yard field goal from Josh Czajkowski made the score 7-3 in favor of the visiting team.

The Pack followed that with its most impressive drive of the game, but came up with no points. The Pack drove from their own 11-yard line to the South Carolina 36-yard line, picking up five first downs but failing to score.

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