Quick hits and notes from NC State's dominating 37-6 win over Wake Forest on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in front of 52,567 fans at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.
For the first time since the loss at Miami Sept. 29, NC State outgained its opponent. Not only did NCSU get more total yards, they got a lot more. The 243 yards difference (428-185) was the second biggest after the 289 yards advantage State had over The Citadel Sept. 22.
Saturday was the first time this year the Pack has held an opponent to under 200 yards. Only Florida State (126) held Wake Forest to fewer total yards this season.
The Wolfpack also had 26 first downs compared to just seven for Wake Forest. That matched the most first downs in a game for State and also was the least the Wolfpack defense has allowed, bettering the previous low of 11 by Connecticut Sept. 7. It was the fewest first downs Wake Forest had gained in a game this year.
Wake Forest ran for just 16 yards, a stat aided by five Wolfack sacks. That is the fewest amount of rushing yards allowed in a game by NC State this year and comes after the previous three teams had averaged 222.0 yards rushing. It was also the Deacons' lowest rushing total of the season and their worst rushing output since a negative-3 yard output at Maryland in 2010.
NC State came out energized and ready to play. NCSU scored on its opening possession after forcing a Wake three-and-out to get a quick 7-0 lead and led 17-0 at the end of the first quarter.
That's significant considering NC State had been outscored in the first quarter 90-28 against BCS teams this season and 68-21 in its previous five ACC games.
NC State is 4-1 this season when scoring first and 2-3 when they do not.
Running backs get into the act
Freshman Shadrach Thornton got the bulk of the carries Saturday, carrying 27 times for 110 yards. That is the second time in Thornton's brief career that he got over 100 yards and the first time against an FBS level opponent.
Redshirt sophomore Tony Creecy did not have near the success Thornton enjoyed on the ground, carrying 14 times for 36 yards, but his one-yard scoring run on NCSU's first possession was State's first rushing touchdown since the loss at Miami.
As a team, NCSU ran for 170 yards, almost as many yards (192) in the previous for games combined. It's the third highest rushing output of the year for the Wolfpack.
The Pack ran well despite starting its sixth different starting offensive line combination of the year. Fifth-year senior Andrew Wallace started at right guard in place of injured redshirt junior Duran Christophe. Wallace had started the first four games of the year at right tackle before a foot injury sidelined him.
Special teams does the job
Fifth-year senior receiver Tobais Palmer finally broke free on a kickoff return, running the opening kick of the second half 100 yards for a touchdown, matching T.J. Graham's school-record set back in 2008. It was NCSU's first kickoff return for a score since Graham ran one back against Duke in 2009.
It was also the longest kickoff return for a score Wake Forest has ever allowed and the first against the Deacs since C.J. Spiller ran one back in 2007.
Redshirt junior receiver Rashard Smith nearly got into the act a few times himself on punt returns. He finished the evening with seven punt returns for 74 yards including a long of 28 yards.
Sophomore place kicker Niklas Sade tied his career-high with three made field goals, the longest coming from 49 yards. He missed a pair however, going wide on kicks from 50 and 52 yards.
Other personal notes
Redshirt junior tight end Asa Watson was one of the few NCSU players having a tough game, dropping a few passes, but he atoned for that with a diving haul in the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown to put the Wolfpack up 31-6 with 9:23 to go.
For Watson, that was his 22nd career catch but more importantly his first career touchdown reception.
Redshirt sophomore defensive end Art Norman also seems to be getting to the quarterback once again. After having seven sacks as a redshirt freshman, Norman was held without one through the first six games of the season.
He had a hit on the quarterback at Maryland and at UNC, and he added 2.5 more today. Norman was one solo sack away from bettering the three sacks he had against Clemson a year ago.
Senior safety Brandan Bishop also notched his second interception of the season and the 11th of his career, moving him into sixth place all by himself in school history.
Spotted at the game
The marquee recruit in attendance was four-star dual-threat quarterback Asiantii Woulard from Winter Park (Fla.) High. Woulard is a verbal commitment to South Florida, but he made the trip despite breaking his fibula last night. Woulard watched the game from a wheelchair.
There were also bowl scouts from the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Russell Athletics Bowl and Belk Bowl.
What the win means
NC State is bowl-bound for the third straight year and fourth in last five after securing six wins. NCSU is 6-4 overall and 3-3 in the ACC.
The Pack improved to 8-1 under head coach Tom O'Brien at home against in-state schools. Duke was the one loss back in 2009. NCSU now leads the all-time series against Wake Forest 63-37-6.
The game continued a recent trend in the series with the home team winning each of the last six games. Wake head coach Jim Grobe's impressive record against in-state opponents falls to 31-10, and it's the first season the Deacs have lost to a pair of in-state rivals since 2004. Duke defeated Wake Forest earlier this year.
Saturday was the annual Toys for Tots Game as well, and NCSU was able to raise $25,216 in cash donations, a new best since the game was first started in 2007.