N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb said he was both happy and relieved Saturday.
Beating Syracuse 35-20 ended a four-game losing skid for the Pack. That had Chubb, a junior defensive end, and his teammates smiling and loudly celebrating after the game.
But Chubb also was relieved — and happy — about a first-quarter play that could have backfired on the Wolfpack.
Syracuse had a 7-0 lead and had the ball back after a three-and-out series by its defense. The Orange quickly tested the Pack deep on the first play, on Zack Mahoney’s sideline throw, but Wolfpack cornerback Jack Tocho had the ball well-played all the way for an interception.
“As a corner, you have to be able to do that,” Tocho said. “I’m on an island most of the game. So once I get the key and I’m locked in … I just have to execute.
“It’s good for me, being a senior and a leader on the team, to be able to make plays and show my teammates I have their backs.”
Chubb said the pick, Tocho’s second of the season, did more than stymie the Orange.
“It saved a lot of guys’ butts, too,” Chubb said, smiling. “We had made a (defensive) call but some people didn’t get it. If he didn’t get that pick I would have felt like it was on me, because I’m one of the people who didn’t get it.
“When Jack got that interception it was a sigh of relief, like ‘Thank you.’ It was a momentum thing. When you see guys like Jack making plays like that it just encourages other guys to make plays, so that’s what we did.”
The Pack defense gave up a few big big plays, but only a few. Chubb had two of the Wolfpack’s three sacks — N.C. State had 13 tackles for losses as a team.
The Orange couldn’t run. Mahoney, filling in for injured Eric Dungey, passed for 190 yards but was under pressure much of the game.
With the Pack leading 28-20 in the fourth quarter, Mahoney unloaded another deep pass for an apparent touchdown, but a penalty against the Orange negated the TD.
“There were some critical calls that didn’t go our way but that’s part of the game,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. “We won’t cry over spilt milk.”
The Wolfpack has had its share of critical calls and critical plays that didn’t go its way the past four games. The loss at Clemson stung. The 24-20 loss last week to Florida State stung.
But the Pack’s locker room Saturday at the Carrier Dome was a noisy, joyous place.
“It felt real good just to finish a game,” Chubb said. “After four losses it’s amazing, just so much fun, to win a game.”