When Louisville challenged on Thursday night, NC State found answers. There is no better example of this than State’s utterly crucial touchdown drive late in the third quarter. That drive started badly.
Louisville had just knocked through a long field goal to cut the margin to 17-13, and with about 20 minutes to go, it was a pivotal moment in the game. Could NC State get past the mistakes it had made up to this point and put some distance between in and the Cardinals?
The initial answer was no. With 5:11 remaining, NC State took possession and immediately suffered a five-yard penalty for having too many men in the huddle. Ryan Finley’s passes on first and second down fell incomplete, and here the doubt over the outcome rushed in. But Finley found Kelvin Harmon over the middle for 17 yards on third down to move the sticks.
On the very next series, State was penalized for holding on a Reggie Gallaspy run, which put State behind schedule once again. Here Nyheim Hines went to work, basically salvaging the entire mess in one blur of spin moves.
On the next play, Hines busted open a run play down the left side for 45 yards, putting the Wolfpack in position for a crucial answer to Louisville’s rally. Appropriately, Hines finished off this drive with a seven-yard touchdown run, which gave NC State an 11-point cushion heading into the fourth quarter and put lots of pressure on Louisville. A drive that could have died very quickly was instead defined by big plays that gave State a 24-13 edge.
That was arguably the biggest sequence of the game. Louisville ended up bending under the pressure of that double-digit deficit. NC State could dictate things a bit more comfortably thanks to it.
Penalties got in the way there to a significant degree for the first time all night—this was mostly a clean game—but NC State’s offense shed them no matter, and that was a huge part of why this team proved decisively why it is better than Louisville.