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Primary Ball Touchers Sweep Pack Past Chippewas

Thomas found the end zone on the ground and through the air as the Pack scored offensively, defensively, and on special teams.

Streeter Lecka

Bryan Underwood caught five balls for a career-high 148 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown, and Rashard Smith returned a punt 67 yards for a score as N.C. State's primary ball touchers (as dubbed by ESPN commentator Al Groh) led the Pack to a decisive 48-14 victory over the struggling Central Michigan Chippewas.

Underwood also added 42 yards on three jet sweeps, while Smith rushed five times for 41 yards and caught three balls for 39. The wide receivers had standout days partly due to their inclusion in the running game. The Pack (3-1) ran the ball on 72% of their plays from scrimmage, amassing 239 yards rushing (4.6 per carry) against the overmatched Chippewas (1-4).

Pete Thomas was his usual efficient-if-not-spectacular self, completing 14 of 20 throws for 244 yards and the TD to Underwood, Thomas's first scoring pass as a member of the Pack. Thomas did throw his fifth pick of the season, a surprisingly high total given his overall completion rate (64%). Thomas also ran for an eight-yard score that was the only touchdown that covered less than 29 yards for the explosive Pack.

D.J. Green started the scoring with a 37-yard pick six off Sally Struggles QB Cooper Rush, who was picked only three times thanks to the generosity of a couple of Pack defenders that dropped errant tosses. Shadrach Thornton put the Pack up 14-0 with a 29-yard run. Matt Dayes made it 21-0 with a 42-yard jaunt. Smith's return made it 28-0, and Thomas capped a lopsided first half with his scoring run to put the Pack up 35-0 at the break.

The Pack pumped the brakes a bit in the second half, playing a number of reserves, especially defensively. One such reserve, Josh Stanley, who came on after Jarvis Byrd left with a lower extremity injury (please, God, don't let it be serious), picked Rush in the end zone to thwart a potential touchdown pass that would have brought the chippy Chips to within 38-21 with just under 10 minutes left. On the next play, the Pack removed any creeping doubt with the 80-yard strike from Thomas to Underwood.

For the game, CMU gained just 259 yards on 64 plays, an average of just over four yards per play. In 72 plays, the Pack ran up 483 yards, a 6.7 per play average. But a truer representation of N.C. State's dominance is evident in the first half stats. The Pack put up 285 yards (8.1 per play) before intermission compared to 94 (2.7) for CMU. Had the Pack not shown mercy in the second half, this one could have gotten really, really ugly (like UNC giving up over 600 yards and more than half a hundred against ECU ugly...hahahahahahaha).

Titus Davis, who came in averaging over 100 yards per game receiving, did manage 80 yards on five catches with a score, but the Pack totally bottled up tailback Saylor Lavallii, who gained just 16 yards on 14 carries. The Pack kept the Chips in predictable throwing situations, and, not surprisingly, their freshman QB could not deliver on the road against a BCS opponent. In addition to his three-pick problems, Rush completed just 42.1% of his throws for a paltry average of 4.3 yards per attempt.

Robert Caldwell led N.C. State tacklers with seven, and T.Y. McGill and Mike Rose were both credited with a sack. The Pack got consistent pressure despite being without defensive ends Darryl Cato-Bishop and Forrest West. Left tackle Rob Crisp also missed the game due to injury, his second in a row. Niklas Sade connected on field goals of 46 and 34 yards; he's 9-for-10 on the season.

Up next for the Pack is a trip to Wake Forest, the team's first road game of the season. Winston-Salem has not been kind to the Pack; State is 0-for-5 in its last five trips west on I-40. But N.C. State appears to be a better team than the one that played Wake on the road two years ago. In 2011, State struggled against a similarly awful CMU squad, winning just 38-24. Today, the Pack dominated. Last year, State hammered the Deacs 37-6 in Carter-Finley. Wake was just embarrassed, 56-7, by Clemson. These are two programs headed in opposite directions; the road losing streak against the Deacs ends next Saturday.