MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — A frustrated and perplexed Tom OBrien searched for answers after N.C. States 44-37 road loss to Miami Saturday.
After all, N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon threw for 440 yards and OBriens team out-rushed a less experienced Miami team, which is in the throes of NCAA investigation and a rebuilding project, 224 to 85 yards.
But in the end, a series of defensive miscues, offensive errors and mental vacations cost the Wolfpack (3-2) its ACC opener for the fifth time in six seasons under OBrien.
I dont know, in 38 years Ive never been involved with a team that made this many mistakes, OBrien said.
One of the ACCs least penalized team a year ago? N.C. State was flagged 14 times for 100 yards during Saturdays conference opener. One of the countrys best teams in turnover margin a year ago? Saturdays equation was six giveaways to only one takeaway.
OBrien, the former Marine who has built his coaching career on discipline, took the blame for his veteran teams problems.
When we lose, its on me, OBrien said. Ive got to do a better job and its going to start with me.
Miami quarterback Stephen Morris was more than willing to accept the kindness of N.C. States defense, which was plagued by offside penalties, missed tackles and blown coverages.
Morris put his name in front of Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde in the Miami record book with 566 passing yards, which is also an ACC record, and five touchdowns. The last score, from 62 yards out to receiver Phillip Dorsett, came with 18 seconds left.
Morris threw for touchdowns of 14, 24, 76, 13 and 62 yards. N.C. State cornerback David Amerson, who had rebounded from a tough outing in the season opener against Tennessee with three interceptions in the past three games, was in coverage on all five touchdown passes.
Miamis fifth score, a 4-yard touchdown run by Duke Johnson, was set up after Amerson jumped offside on a field goal attempt, which gave Miami a first down.
Weve got guys that are turning around and, you know, youre supposed to be covering a guy, N.C. State safety Brandan Bishop said. You cant just let him run by you and do it over and over and over again. Its frustrating. Its really, really frustrating.
Despite all of the mistakes, and problems with Morris, Dorsett (7 catches, 191 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Rashawn Scott (6 catches, 180 yards, 2 touchdowns), N.C. State still had a chance to win the game.
The Wolfpack, which trailed 23-7 in the first half, tied the game at 37 with 1:58 remaining after scoring 10-straight points.
Glennon finished a 6-play, 78-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Rashard Smith to make it 37-34 at 5:43 in the fourth quarter.
Then, after a rare stop by the defense, N.C. State kicker Niklas Sade, who missed an extra point earlier in the fourth quarter, nailed a 50-yard field goal to even the game at 37.
Miami (4-1), which improved to 3-0 in the ACC despite giving up 105 points in those three games, actually punted the ball away on its next possession, leaving 63 seconds until overtime.
With the ball on its own 3-yard line, N.C. State was content to run out the clock and take its chances in overtime. Since Miamis Jake Wieclaw had already missed three field goals, including a 19-yarder, that seemed like the safe play.
But on first down, freshman running back Shadrach Thornton, who finished with 87 rushing yards, busted a routine run for 20 yards. Given the extra room to work, Glennon took a shot down field on the next play to Tobais Palmer, but Palmer broke off the route and Miami corner Thomas Finnie ended up with an interception at the Miami 39-yard line.
It was a bad mistake by me, Glennon said.
The turnover was compounded when Morris eluded N.C. States pass rush and Dorsett got behind Amerson for a 62-yard touchdown.
Miamis players celebrated. N.C. States could only watch in disbelief, and wonder where it went wrong.