Germaine Pratt’s 25-yard interception for a return a touchdown sealed N.C. State’s win, and running back Nyheim Hines had a pair of touchdowns, but these five non-scoring plays helped No. 24 N.C. State beat No. 17 Louisville, 39-25 on Thursday night:
1. Ryan Finley’s “hurry-up” sneak
Score: N.C. State 0, Louisville 0
Time: 12:22, second quarter
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Field position: 4th and 1 at the 50
The New England Patriots have made an art form of out of this type of play. In short-yardage situations on third or fourth down, quarterback Tom Brady goes under center and runs a quick sneak before the defense is set.
N.C. State offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz has borrowed a page from Brady and the Patriots. Finley was able to “thief” a first down, with a 2-yard pickup, before Louisville’s defense was really aware of what was going on.
What was even more impressive, Finley pulled the play off with backup center Joe Sculthorpe on the field for starter Garrett Bradbury.
On the next play, Finley popped a deep post to receiver Kelvin Harmon for a 48-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead.
2. Jaylen Samuels’ 79-yard catch and run
Score: N.C. State 7, Louisville 7
Time: 6:58, second quarter
Field position: 2nd and 6 at the N.C. State 13
N.C. State never trailed in the game and this play was a big reason why. After Louisville had tied it up at 7, on a beautiful 23-yard TD pass from quarterback Lamar Jackson to Seth Dawkins, N.C. State’s big-play player came up with another big play.
Finley hit Samuels in the slot in front of linebacker Dorian Etheridge at the 20-yard line. Samuels had room to run and then shook off a tackle attempt by safety Zykiesis Cannon at midfield. Samuels then cut towards the Louisville sideline and tried to leap over cornerback Trumaine Washington at the 10 but was tripped up after a 79-yard gain.
Two plays later, Carson Wise made a 21-yard field goal to give the Wolfpack a 10-7 lead.
3. Stephen Louis’ 39-yard catch
Score: N.C. State 10, Louisville 7
Time: 2:08, second quarter
Field position: 2nd and 10 at the 50
Finley missed on two quick outs to Louis on the same series but he was setting up a double move. Louis beat Washington to the outside with a hitch-and-go route. Finley threw a deep pass, down to the 13, where only Louis could catch it. Louis adjusted to the ball while it was in the air and then reached up with both hands to secure the catch and a 39-yard gain.
Really an all-around textbook play by Louis to set up Washington with the fake and then to use both hands to catch the ball (instead of his body).
4. James Hearns’ personal foul penalty
Score: N.C. State 17, Louisville 13
Time: 2:40, third quarter
Field position: 1st and 10 at the Louisville 16
N.C. State had out-played Louisville up to this point but only had 17 points to show for five trips into the red zone. A fumble by Finley (in the first quarter) and a missed field goal by Wise (from 35 yards) had kept the Cardinals in the game.
Up only four near the end of the third quarter, N.C. State moved back into Louisville territory on two electric plays by running back Nyheim Hines.
On first down from Louisville’s 16, the Cards’ defense wrapped up Hines for no gain. Even the ESPN commentators mentioned the Wolfpack’s red-zone problems and how that running play was not a great sign.
But instead of second and long, Hearns threw Hines to the ground after the whistle and picked up a personal foul in front of the Louisville sidelines. Louisville coach Bobby Petrino was livid with his senior defensive end.
Of Louisville’s 10 penalties (compared to six for State), that was the most punitive. Two plays later, Bradbury and guard Tony Adams sprung Hines for a 7-yard touchdown run and a 24-13 Wolfpack lead.
5. Nyheim Hines’ 48-yard kickoff return
Score: N.C. State 24, Louisville 19
Time: 12:29, fourth quarter
Again, with all of their penalties, drops and mistakes, Louisville was down by just five points after a 4-yard touchdown by Jackson at 12:39 in the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Brody Bodine got out in front of Hines with a lead block and Hines was able to race out past midfield to the Louisville 45-yard line.
The big return ignited the crowd, announced at 56,107 and was loud from beginning to end. Juiced up, N.C. State’s used another big passing play (21 yards to Kelvin Harmon) and a pass interference call on Washington (who had a tough game) to set up a 3-yard TD run by Reggie Gallaspy.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio