NC State rolled into Morgantown on a beautiful fall day, setting the scene for a Big 12 vs ACC showdown. Head Coach Dave Doeren’s Wolfpack came in 2-0 after demolishing their previous opponents. Led by a stifling defense, they held both East Carolina and Western Carolina out of the end zone. West Virginia was returning from receiving a beat down themselves, courtesy of the Missouri Tigers. It was a match up of teams seemingly heading in opposite directions.
The Wolfpack would receive the opening kickoff and despite WVU forcing a 4th down, their drive was continued by a foolish roughing the passer penalty. Despite the mistake, the Mountaineer defense would stand up tall in their own territory. Dante Stills sacked NC State quarterback, Matthew McKay, thus forcing a long field goal. The kick would come up short and gave Austin Kendall and the Gold and Blue offense, a short field to work with. In a little more than two minutes, Kendall would lead the offense 66 yards, capped off with a twenty yard touchdown pass to Sam James.
NC State would answer on their next drive with a pass to Thayer Thomas. The teams would exchange scores again before a double pass by wide receiver Thayer Thomas gave the Wolfpack a 21-14 edge with 3:13 left in the second. West Virginia’s kick return team found a crease in coverage, giving their team the ball at their own 45. From there Kendall took charge of the offense, driving down the field in nine plays. A highlight, 13 yard throw to George Campbell tied the game up at 21 entering the half. In a game where the match up looked exceptionally lopsided on paper, the two teams would enter the half all square.
The opening drive of the third quarter saw Evan Staley finish off a 89 yard drive with a 23 yard field goal. West Virginia’s Logan Thimons blocked a NC State punt, giving WVU the ball deep in Wolfpack territory. Facing third and short, Kennedy McKoy bounced outside to the left, streaking into the end zone for a five yard touchdown.
NC State would respond with two converted field goals. One of them resulting from an interception on a poorly thrown ball by Kendall. Looking to respond after the interception, with the margin narrowed to four, West Virginia put together another long drive. Led by Kendall on a 25 yard scramble and a pass to Ali Jennings in the end zone, that put the Old Gold and Blue back up by 11. From there, WVU’s defense would take over, smothering the NC State offense. Despite the ejection of Josh Norwood early in the game for targeting, the secondary played admirably, blanketing the Wolfpack receivers throughout the game. A late touchdown by Leddie Brown would finalize the game at 44-27.
An offense that had struggled through the first two games, came alive. Entering the game, WVU had a meager 64 yards of rushing. Today the team would rack up 173 yards on the ground to go along with another 272 through the air. Austin Kendall finished the game 27 of 40 for 272 yards and 3 touchdowns. On the ground the Mountaineers were led by Kennedy McKoy, who finished with 66 yards on 10 carries and 2 touchdowns. Sam James stared for the Old Gold and Blue, moving the ball on critical third downs and picking up large chunks or yardage to flip field position. He had 9 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively the Mountaineers were a different team from a week ago. They held NC State to a 144 yards on the ground, forcing seven tackles for loss. Last Saturday in Columbia, they surrendered 232 rushing yards. The improved run defense and better coverage forced two field goals in the second half, preventing touchdowns, which ultimately made the difference in the game. In terms of tackles they were led by Hakeem Bailey with nine stops. Dante Stills had two sacks and two tackles for loss.
NC State quarterback, Matthew McKay completed 23 of 48 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown. Zonovan Knight led the team in rushing with 72 yards on 12 carries. Emeka Emezie had 12 receptions for 103 yards.
A week after being blasted by the Missouri Tigers, many were questioning what this team was capable of. In a game where many thought WVU might get run off the field, the Mountaineers stood tall, showing they were the more physical team as they ran over the Wolfpack in the second half. West Virginia will be in action next when they travel to Lawrence, Kansas to face the Jayhawks at 4:30pm.
Cover photo by BGS’ Kelsie LeRose