Yards were hard to come by. Points nearly impossible. And big plays? Only if you count the mishandled footballs that permeated the events of afternoon.
Amid gusting winds, persistent rain, and a lightning-induced delay at the halftime break, North Carolina State defeated Notre Dame 10-3 Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium.
The Wolfpack special teams delivered the day’s decisive blow when Dexter Wright scooped up a punt blocked by Pharoah McKever and galloped in for a 16-yard score.
The touchdown moved the hosts in front 10-3 – a nearly insurmountable deficit with Notre Dame’s impotent offense heading into the wind for the duration.
Justin Yoon provided Notre Dame’s only points on the afternoon, nailing a 40-yard field goal that knotted the score 3-3 early in the third quarter. Yoon’s field goal followed a four-play, 2-yard drive made possible when Wolfpack punter A.J. Cole fielded a low snap with his knee on the grass, giving the Irish field position at the N.C. State 23-yard line.
Trailing 10-3 in the wake of Wright’s game-altering score, the Irish mounted a 17-play, 64-yard drive that burned more than 7:30 off the fourth quarter clock, but the march was ultimately felled by miscommunication on a fourth-down shotgun snap from center Sam Mustipher to quarterback DeShone Kizer.
The error occurred at the game’s 1:52 mark effectively ending the contest – a reality Wolfpack running back Matt Dayes hammered home with a 24-yard rush two snaps later, thus allowing North Carolina State to officially run out the clock.
The game included a combined 10 fumbles (4 lost) plus an interception thrown by Kizer at the Wolfpack goal line midway through the second quarter.
The teams combined for just 95 net passing yards but that voided option of offensive weaponry hurt Notre Dame more – head coach Brian Kelly’s Irish attempted 26 passes on the afternoon resulting in just 54 yards. Kelly’s running game produced a paltry 1.6 yards per rush and 38 total yards on the afternoon, a number impacted by N.C. State’s five sacks of Kizer.
The host Wolfpack finished with a 198-113 edge in total yardage led by the aforementioned Dayes’ 126 rushing yards on 23 carries.
“Both teams turned the ball over in very difficult conditions,” said Kelly. “Both teams had a hard time moving the football. Both field goal kickers managed to eek one over the uprights in sloppy conditions.
“We gave up a flippin’ blocked punt for a touchdown. That’s the difference in this one.”
With the loss, Notre Dame falls to 2-4 on the season, their first such mark since beginning the same in 1997, Bob Davie’s first season at the helm. North Carolina State improved to 4-1 with a matchup against No. 3 Clemson on tap next Saturday.
Wolfpack kicker Kyle Bambard connected on a 38-yard field goal in the first quarter to help provide the winning margin.