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NC State fends off Louisiana Tech’s rally, 34-27

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[wipes brow]

NCAA Football: Louisiana Tech at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

If Dave Doeren spent all week imploring his team not to have a letdown after its big win over Clemson, it didn’t appear to do much good early. The Wolfpack played about as listless a first half as you’ll see, mostly on offense, and the result was a narrow 13-10 halftime lead.

NC State finally started to execute better in the third quarter, stringing together a bunch of strong running plays to put the Bulldogs on their heels. State appeared to assert full control, in fact, building a 27-13 lead with a chance to extend it further.

But NC State failed a fourth-down conversion in Louisiana Tech territory, and the Bulldogs quickly went the other way for a score to once again narrow the game to one possession. NC State responded with its third touchdown drive of the half to go up 14 halfway through the fourth quarter, but give Louisiana Tech credit, it did not back down.

Austin Kendall played well in general and State’s defense looked tired and without answers for the first time this season as the game went down the stretch. Tech got into the end zone with 4:43 to go, once again exerting some real game pressure on the Pack.

And this time NC State’s offense did not have an answer, putting the fate of the evening back on its defense. Louisiana Tech was working the two-minute drill nicely until Kendall went down with an injury and inexcusable clock management cost the Bulldogs about 30 crucial seconds after the backup quarterback came in for a snap. No one on Louisiana Tech noticed that the game clock resumed, and Tech went from having a very reasonable 41 seconds to just 11 with the ball on State’s 30.

That gaffe, thankfully, was just too much for Louisiana Tech to overcome, and its last-chance shot at the end zone was intercepted by Jakeen Harris to seal the result.

The Pack finished +2 in turnovers and committed only four penalties on the night, and those were important edges on a night where State’s execution was not great. It didn’t have to be this close, and NC State could have been more opportunistic to bury the Bulldogs early in the second half, but Tech has been feisty all season and showed exactly why they’ve caused opponents so much trouble.

The coaches won’t be satisfied with this effort, but the Pack got out of there with the win, which allows them to turn the page and refocus for the return to league play. This team has a huge month ahead of it, and a wake-up call like this isn’t always a bad thing.