RALEIGH - The NC State football team has miraculously overcome a 2-6 start to finish the season with bowl eligibility.
NC State rolled to a 38-28 victory over Miami on Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium to finish 6-6 on the season, and 4-4 in ACC action. Miami fell to 7-5 overall and 4-4 in conference action.
The Wolfpack's fourth-straight victory was highlighted by their powerful running game and timely defense, which resulted in four interceptions.
The brilliance of redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Wilson was on full display in the team's first drive. After Miami punted following a three-and-out, the Hurricanes pinned NC State at the 4-yard line.
Wilson completed a pass to senior running back Andre Brown for 22 yards on a third and seven and then ran for gains of 12 and 29 yards before finishing off the drive with a two-yard toss to Brown, giving State an early 7-0 lead with 7:42 left in the first quarter. The drive was 10 plays and lasted 5:04.
Miami though struck with a big play later in the first quarter. Redshirt freshman quarterback Robert Marve hit junior tight end Dedrick Epps for a 69-yard bomb with 3:50 left in the first quarter to even the score.
Miami scored first in the second quarter, when Javarris James plunged in from the one-yard line with 13:09 left in the half.
James gained 34 yards on the drive, and the Hurricanes were helped by a 15-yard personal foul penalty by NC State middle linebacker Ray Michel.
Wilson rolled right, deeked defensive tackle Marcus Forston, then cut back at the 30-yard line, picked up a few blocks and scored on a 29-yard touchdown run to tie the game 14-14 with 10:44 left in the second quarter.
NC State's defense came through with a big interception in the end zone. Miami was on first down at the NCSU 19-yard line, and backup quarterback Jacory Harris, a true freshman, threw to tight end Richard Gordon in the end zone.
The Wolfpack's Bobby Floyd knocked the ball away and cornerback DeAndre Morgan came down with an interception to thwart the drive.
The Wolfpack needed 15 plays against the Hurricanes, resulting in a Josh Czajkowski 39-yard field goal with 1:47 left to give them a 17-14 lead in the second quarter. Wilson's 21-yard pass to tight end Anthony Hill and a 19-yard run by running back Jamelle Eugene helped set up the field goal.
NC State added another field in the third quarter, this time Czajkowski making a 24-yarder with 10:28 left in the third quarter. NC State had it first and goal from the eight, but Wilson's QB draw on third down from the three was stopped for a loss of four yards.
On Miami's opening possession however, the Hurricanes ran six out of seven plays to cover 64 yards, capped off by James' second one-yard touchdown run. giving Miami a 21-20 lead with 6:58 left in the third quarter.
NC State though responded quickly. Wilson connected with freshman receiver T.J. Graham on a 42-yard pass, and then Wilson hooked up with sophomore Owen Spencer for a 32-yard score on the next play. Wilson connected with Eugene on the two-point conversion pass, giving the Pack a 28-21 lead with 5:51 left in the third quarter.
Czajkowski added a career long 42-yard field goal with 9:48 left in the fourth quarter to give the Wolfpack a 31-21 lead.
Redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Nate Irving picked off Harris when the Canes tried to at least tack on a field goal at the Wolfpack 30-yard line. Irving took the interception and returned it 30 yards with 6:25 left in the fourth quarter.
The momentum of Irving's interception helped the offense put the finishing touches on the game. Brown and Eugene's hard running, ended with Brown rushing for a four-yard score with 2:35 left in the game to give the Wolfpack a commanding 38-21 lead.
Miami freshman wide receiver Laron Byrd caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Harris with 42.6 seconds left in the game for the final score of the game.
Fittingly on Senior Day, cornerback Jeremy Gray got an interception off an interception and fellow senior quarterback Daniel Evans came in to take a knee for the final 12.8 seconds of the game.