NC State survives Richmond’s upset bid with late Sade field goal

jgiglio@newsobserver.comSeptember 7, 2013 

— Richmond almost did it again.

N.C. State made enough mistakes Saturday night to lose to a lower level Division I team for the first time in 26 years.

The Wolfpack also made enough plays to avert disaster in coach Dave Doeren’s second game. Junior kicker Nik Sade’s 48-yard field goal with 33 seconds left delivered a comeback 23-21 win against the Spiders.

Sade clutched the game ball afterward in his right arm but it was his right foot that came through when the Wolfpack (2-0) needed him most to extend its winning streak over Division I-AA opponents to 25 games.

“We made it hard on ourselves, there’s no doubt,” Doeren said. “We gave our kicker a chance to win and he did.”

Richmond, playing up from the Football Championship Subdivision, nearly pulled off its fourth win against an ACC team since 2006 (the previous three were over Duke).

The Spiders got 300 passing yards and two touchdowns from quarterback Michael Strauss to build a 21-10 lead in the first half.

The Wolfpack‘s defense came up with two late stops, including one on the last play of the game, to shutout the Spiders in the second half and atone for the Wolfpack’s issues on offense.

N.C. State, which was nearly flawless in its 40-14 win against Louisiana Tech last week, turned the ball over four times and committed 10 penalties for 89 yards.

“We made it hard on ourselves, there’s no doubt,” Doeren said.

After junior quarterback Pete Thomas threw his second interception of the second half with 3:04 left, it looked like the Wolfpack would drop its first game to an FCS opponent since a 29-14 loss to East Tennessee State in 1987.

“It was just a bad ball,” said Thomas, who forced a throw to receiver Rashard Smith down the right sideline.

“I was still confident in our defense that we would get the ball back. And then Nik was clutch.”

Down 21-20, Thomas (24 of 31, 237 yards) and the Wolfpack offense got the ball back with 1:59 left at its own 21.

Thomas completed two passes to freshman receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (eight catches, 87 yards) and one to Smith to move the ball to midfield. The junior quarterback, who started for the injured Brandon Mitchell, took a shot in the end zone for receiver Bryan Underwood, which drew a pass interference penalty on Richmond safety Reggie Barnette.

With the ball on Richmond’s 34, N.C. State picked up 3 yards on three plays, which set up Sade’s last attempt.

“I knew coach knew that I could make a field goal, so I was confident going out there,” Sade said.

Sade, who has made all seven of his field-goal attempts this season, had made a kick going in the same direction from 46 yards out in the first half.

His game-winner was true with 33 seconds left, which sent the nervous Wolfpack sidelines into a frenzy.

“I can’t explain it,” Sade said. “To see all my teammates jumping around, it’s just the greatest feeling.”

Richmond had one last shot, after Strauss hit Shane Savage for a 14-yard gain with 2 seconds left. Strauss’ final heave, instead of a 54-yard field-goal attempt, was batted away by N.C. State cornerback Dontae Johnson as the clock hit all zeroes.

N.C. State looked like it would eliminate the need for any late dramatics with a quick start to the second half. Defensive end Art Norman recovered a fumble and caused a fumble to set up the Wolfpack’s offense twice inside Richmond’s 20-yard line.

Freshman quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, who ran for a touchdown and threw for one, made Richmond pay for the first fumble, off of a bad exchange between Strauss and running back T.J. Moon. Shirreffs tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to running back Matt Dayes to cut the Spiders’ lead to 21-20 at 7:09 in the third quarter.

On Richmond’s next possession, Norman came off the left edge and popped Strauss for a sack and knocked the ball loose. Defensive end Forrest West recovered the fumble at the 18.

Shirreffs came back in to relieve Thomas but gave the ball back to the Spiders with a fumble on the 4.

Richmond scored on a three straight possessions in the first half to take control.

After an emotional opener, and with ACC heavyweight Clemson next on the schedule, Doeren knew the potential was there to struggle, especially with Richmond’s history.

“I knew we were going to have a tough day,” Doeren said.

It was, but it was also one Wolfpack was ultimately able to handle, if only barely.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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