There might be something to the talk of a new season with the North Carolina State football team.
NC State had a miserable first half beset by injuries and turnovers while getting off to a 1-5 start. The off week couldn't have happened at a better time.
NC State responded after the off week with an impressive victory over East Carolina. A larger test loomed with Virginia coming to town Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium.
NC State showed its game against ECU wasn't a fluke with an impressive 29-24 victory against Virginia behind the dynamic effort of sophomore wide receiver Donald Bowens, who finished with 11 receptions for 202 yards and two touchdowns. It was the Wolfpack first ACC win of the season, improving to 3-5 on the season and 1-3 in the conference.
The Wolfpack's offense came alive for the second week in a row, with quarterback Daniel Evans hitting Bowens for a 30-yard touchdown score with 7:37 left in the fourth quarter. The Pack failed on the two-point conversion, but still led 29-24.
With the offense supplying the lead, it was time for the defense to step up, and they did on three different possessions.
Defensive linemen Willie Young and Alan-Michael Cash came up with big plays, with the latter getting a sack and injuring quarterback Jameel Sewell on the play.
The next Virginia offensive possession, with new quarterback Peter Lalich, a true freshman. Same dominance by the defensive line occurred with Young pressuring him on one throw and DeMario Pressley batting down a pass on another.
NC State's offense worked the clock enough, but the defense still needed one more stand. Young sacked Lalich on the first play, defensive tackle Ted Larsen added another sack, and Young finished off the game with another sack. The effort of the defensive line secured NC State's first ACC victory since defeating Florida State on Oct. 5, 2006.
Evans picked up right where he left off against ECU in the first half. Evans passed for 195 of his 347 yards and tossed a 40-yard touchdown pass to Bowens and a 25-yard score to the unlikely Koyal George, a walk-on wide receiver. Both receivers streaked behind the Cavaliers' secondary for easy touchdowns.
The Bowens touchdown was set up by safety DaJuan Morgan's first interception of the season. Later, cornerback Jeremy Gray added an interception to stall a Virginia drive.
Complementing the two touchdown passes, kicker Steven Hauschka hit field goals from 30 and 42 yards out.
George's touchdown score gave the Wolfpack a 20-10 lead, but Virginia's offense started to awake from its mini-slumber.
Sewell shook off the two prior interceptions and led the Cavaliers down the field, hitting Cary Koch for a 7-yard score with 1:04 left in the first half to cut the lead to 20-17 at halftime. Sewell also had a nice shuffle pass scored to Mikell Simpson for his other touchdown pass of the second period. Sewell finished with 217 yards in the first half.
The action slowed down in the third quarter, but NC State was able to tack on Hauschka's third field goal of the game, a 23-yarder. The field goal was set up by Jamelle Eugene's 37-yard run to the two-yard line.
The NC State defense had the chance to change the momentum of the game on fourth down and one early in the fourth quarter, but Sewell ran 11 yards to set up first down and goal at the 5-yard line to give the Cavaliers a 24-23 lead with 13:19 left in the fourth quarter.
Virginia's surge continued when Evans tossed an interception to Ras-I Dowling, killing the Wolfpack's drive. Evans might have hurt his throwing hand on the prior play, when he was pressured by defensive end Chris Long.
NC State's defense came through following the interception, forcing Virginia to punt. Evans promptly hit Owen Spencer for a 30-yard gain to the 30-yard line, setting up Bowens' eventual game-winning touchdown.