N.C. State wondered how it might stop Notre Dame’s high-powered offense on Saturday. Well, the Wolfpack got its answer.
The game wasn’t pretty, as expected, and the rain and wind never let up. But N.C. State (4-1) ran the ball better than Notre Dame (2-3) and picked up the win 10-3.
There were fumbles, bad snaps, slips and falls, balls that would normally be caught, dropped, and throws that would normally be on target, off target.
The football field looked like a Slip ’N Slide.
When asked what was the toughest part of playing in the bad weather, Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer kept it simple.
“Holding the football,” he said. “The ball is wet. You just have to go out there, execute and hold onto the football.”
Execution was what neither team could do. It was as if both teams played hot potato. After one team turned the ball over, it just gave it back to the other team.
The two teams combined to fumble the ball 10 times. N.C. State had four. Notre Dame had six.
Kizer finished the game 9-of-26 for 54 yards and one interception. He was sacked five times.
“It was much more difficult throwing the football,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “I can’t remember many games where it was this difficult. But it was difficult for both teams. We don’t have any excuses. We were atrocious offensively.”
The only touchdown of the game was the one that won it, and it came in the fourth quarter, when N.C. State tight end Pharoah McKever blocked a punt. McKever rushed down the middle, pushed the blocker back into the punter and stuck his hand up to block the punt. Dexter Wright scooped the ball up with no one around and ran it in for the touchdown.
“Tough conditions to play a game in but, boy, it was fun,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said.
Through the first two quarters N.C. State led Notre Dame 3-0 after a 38-yard field goal from Kyle Bambard.
Notre Dame had a chance to score in the first half on third-and-goal, from the 19-yard line. But N.C. State safety Jarius Morehead intercepted Kizer’s pass. He returned the ball to the 25 before he slipped and fell, a common theme in this game.
The rain in Raleigh started to pick up early Saturday morning. Kelly said it had no effect on the team’s travel, and before the game, his team was in great spirits and was excited to play.
But as the day went on and Hurricane Matthew got closer to Raleigh, the rain became heavier, and winds started to pick up. The teams used 36 different game balls. The usual rotation is 18, but because of the bad weather, the officials allowed more.
“I don’t think you can prepare for this, all the wet ball drills you do,” Kelly said. “Both teams turned the ball over in very difficult conditions. Both teams’ kickers managed to eek one over the uprights in sloppy conditions.
“We give up a flippin’ blocked punt for a touchdown. That’s the difference in this one.”
The game was delayed briefly at halftime because of lightning, but resumed shortly after.
After halftime, N.C. State received the ball, but turned it over on downs.
Punter A.J. Cole bent down to catch a low snap, but as he did, his knee touched the ground. That’s considered a downed ball. He lost 15 yards. Notre Dame took over at N.C. State’s 20 and after a few plays kicked a field goal to tie the score 3-3.
Matt Dayes was responsible for 126 of the team’s 157 rushing yards. Notre Dame managed 102 yards on 38 carries.
After a few more turnovers and sloppy plays, Notre Dame punted the ball from inside its 15-yard line.
That’s when McKever got the block, and Wright scored with 12:43 left in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame made one final attempt to tie the score. The Irish brought the ball all the way to N.C. State’s 12-yard line. But facing fourth down, the center hiked the ball too high for Kizer.
Kizer picked up the ball and was sacked.
When the clock struck zero, N.C. State players dove and slid on the wet field in celebration.