Next week, the last home game of the season, is “Senior Day” for N.C. State. Saturday’s 42-29 win over Syracuse was an impromptu “Freshmen Day” for the Wolfpack.
First-year players Nyheim Hines, Reggie Gallaspy and Darian Roseboro all scored to lift the Wolfpack (7-4, 3-4 ACC) to its seventh win of the season.
“It was really exciting,” Roseboro said. “Me, Reggie and Nyheim are all roommates, and we try to keep an eye on each other.”
That was easy on Saturday — just look for the end zone. Hines and Gallaspy helped N.C. State run for 276 yards, its most in an ACC game this season, and Roseboro had an interception return for a touchdown.
Those three, plus freshman linebacker Riley Nicholson, who had a team-best eight tackles, showed why coach Dave Doeren was so excited on “Signing Day” last February.
The learning curve is different for every freshmen but so much was expected of Hines, Gallaspy and Roseboro, a trio of four-star recruits from the state of North Carolina, it can be difficult to live up to the hype, Doeren said.
“To see them growing from that and having fun and making plays, it’s really rewarding,” Doeren said.
Gallaspy ran for 81 yards and a touchdown and “ran behind his pads,” Doeren said.
Hines, a star running back at Garner High last year, had his best college game. He rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 69 yards.
He started the year at receiver, a position switch, but has added some running back responsibilities since leading rusher Matt Dayes got injured three weeks ago.
Hines has enjoyed getting more involved in the offense and getting more reps at running back.
“I feel like I’m back in my normal position,” Hines said. “At receiver, I might think a little bit too much. At running back, you just see what you see and hit the hole.”
Hines’ 4-yard touchdown run gave N.C. State a 21-3 lead at 3:08 in the second quarter, and it looked like the Wolfpack would run away from the Orange (3-8, 1-6).
Syracuse, which has lost eight straight, was able to score before the end of the half and then got a 75-yard touchdown run by its own freshman, Jordan Fredericks, on the first play of the third quarter to cut N.C. State’s lead to 21-16.
The Wolfpack responded with a 9-play, 73-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 5-yard touchdown catch by Jumichael Ramos. N.C. State converted on fourth-and-7 from the Syracuse 36, an 11-yard connection between Jacoby Brissett (235 yards) and tight end David J. Grinnage, to sustain the drive.
It was one of three fourth-down conversions on the game for N.C. State. In one of the more incredible statistics, Syracuse has allowed its opponents to go 12 for 12 on the season on fourth down.
Roseboro, a defensive end from Lincolnton, got a “pick six” on Syracuse’s next possession, a 20-yard interception return to push N.C. State’s lead back to 35-16.
Roseboro, at 6-4 and 287 pounds, also played running back at Lincolnton and showed off those skills on the return, with some high-stepping thrown in.
“I’ll work on him with that part,” Hines said.
Roseboro said his success is a matter of being adjusted to the college game. Doeren said the big defensive end has learned to trust the process.
“Sometimes you want to do too much, and then you end up doing nothing,” Doeren said.
Then there are plays like the freshmen made Saturday, and games like that when you realize what all the recruiting fuss is all about.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio