If N.C. State was looking for a challenge outside the ACC, it didn’t find one on Saturday night at Sun Belt foe South Alabama.
Junior running back Matt Dayes scored three touchdowns and ran for 104 yards and utility man Jaylen Samuels added two more scores for the Wolfpack in a 63-13 road rout of the Jaguars.
N.C. State (4-0) has won seven straight games going back to the end of the 2014 season. The Wolfpack won its four nonconference games by an average margin of 34.2 points.
South Alabama (2-2), with a roster full of transfers, did have more noticeable speed than Troy, Eastern Kentucky or Old Dominion, but its talent was confined to the offensive side of the ball.
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N.C. State gashed the Jaguars’ defense for 241 yards and 28 points in the first quarter alone and 330 rushing yards for the game.
USA led 7-0 after a quick strike to open the game. But Dayes ran for three touchdowns in the first quarter, including a 77-yarder on his first carry of the game.
Samuels scored for a second straight week on an option shovel pass, this one for 33 yards, and then added a 2-yard touchdown catch later in the second quarter to post N.C. State to a 42-10 halftime lead.
With a 14-7 lead, N.C. State sophomore Germaine Pratt intercepted USA quarterback Cody Clements at the Wolfpack 19-yard line. Three plays later, N.C. State turned the interception into seven points.
Three who mattered
Matt Dayes: The junior running back scored a touchdown the first three times he touched the ball. His 77-yard rushing touchdown was the first time he had been used on a jet sweep this season. He scored another touchdown on a jet sweep, which has usually been the domain of Jaylen Samuels.
Jaylen Samuels: The sophomore tight end/running back scored two more touchdowns and caught five passes for 84 yards. Samuels has eight touchdowns on the season.
Airius Moore: The sophomore linebacker didn’t get credit for Jerod Fernandez’s second-quarter interception but it was his blitzing pressure that caused Clements to rush his throw.
Three key numbers
11.9 Yards per rush in the first half for N.C. State’s offense (16 carries, 190 yards).
1973-74 The last time N.C. State won five straight games away from home. Going back to last year’s win at Syracuse, and including the bowl win over Central Florida, the Wolfpack has won five straight away from Carter-Finley Stadium.
9 Rushing touchdowns for Dayes through four games, one more than he had all of last season.
Even with USA cornerback Nigel Green in tight coverage, N.C. State receiver Bra’Lon Cherry snagged a pass for a 33-yard gain down to the 2-yard line to set up the Wolfpack’s third touchdown.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio