RALEIGH — After a disappointing loss to Tennessee and an ugly win over Connecticut to open the season, it was important for N.C. State on Saturday to figure it what kind of football team it wants to be.
With three touchdown passes from senior quarterback Mike Glennon and seven sacks and three turnovers from the defense, N.C. State registered a more complete and satisfying 31-7 win over South Alabama in the home opener on Saturday.
"We were playing the way that we should have been playing the first two games," senior receiver Tobais Palmer said.
Now, South Alabama (1-2) a rookie on the Football Bowl Subdivision level is not in Connecticut's class, or even in the same stratosphere as Tennessee, but how N.C. State (2-1) played on Saturday was more important than the relative quality of the opponent.
Glennon, who threw four interceptions in the loss to Tennessee and was sacked six times in the win over UConn, got his senior season going in the right direction. He finished with 257 yards on 24 of 34 passing and he did not throw an interception.
"We wanted to worry about ourselves," Glennon said.
Which the Wolfpack did, in building a 31-0 lead after three quarters, but there were lapses in the final 15 minutes, including South Alabama breaking up the shutout, which didn't please coach Tom O'Brien.
"For having as much experience as we do, we're still an immature team and we still do some dumb things," O'Brien said.
Glennon interpreted "dumb" as not closing the game with the same intensity as it started.
"We had them 28-0 and it ended up 31-7," Glennon said. "So we need to finish the game stronger."
There was not much to quibble about with the start. Glennon completed his first six passes of the game on the opening drive of the game, which he finished with a 33-yard touchdown pass to receiver Rashard Smith.
The Jaguars, who were more competitive in last year's 35-13 loss in Raleigh, couldn't find any room on the ground and neither of its quarterbacks had success against the Wolfpack defense.
State's defense was expected to be the team's strength and has improved each week. Since giving up three touchdowns to Tennessee in the first two quarters of the season, the Pack has given up three in the past 10 quarters.
The Pack finished the game with seven sacks, two by tackle A.J. Ferguson, and held the Jaguars to 0-for-11 on third down.
The second interception in as many weeks by cornerback David Amerson set up N.C. State's second scoring drive.
Glennon and the Pack offense was just as smooth on its second possession as the first. Glennon hit receiver Bryan Underwood for a 44-yard touchdown to put the Pack up 14-0 at 4:06 in the first quarter.
Tony Creecy, who started the game for suspended running back Mustafa Greene, rushed for an 11-yard touchdown at 6:52 to extend State's lead to 21-0.
Glennon struck again before the end of the half with a 13-yard strike to his new favorite receiver Quintin Payton for the 28-0 halftime margin.
State's only points in the second half came on a 22-yard field goal by Niklas Sade at 7:36 in the third quarter. Sade missed a 39-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Glennon gave way to freshman Manny Stocker with 8:50 left in the fourth quarter. Stocker, who enrolled in January, did not attempt pass in three possessions.
South Alabama broke up the shutout with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Ross Metheny, a Virginia transfer, to receiver Jereme Jones with 5:20 left in the game.
While disappointing, the fourth-quarter letdown was not enough to erase all the good from the first three quarters.
"All in all, I'm satisfied with the victory," O'Brien said. "It was good to come home and it was good to win a football game."