N.C. State didn’t have Jakobi Meyers, its best player from the season-opener, for Saturday’s game with Georgia State.
Turns out the Wolfpack didn’t need the star receiver. Redshirt freshman Thayer Thomas stepped in for Meyers and helped N.C. State beat Georgia State, 41-7 at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Thomas, in his second college game, caught nine passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. He also completed a pass for 56 yards to set up a field goal. Freshman running back Trent Pennix also caught a touchdown pass, backup quarterback Matt McKay ran for a touchdown and kicker Chris Dunn added two field goals. Freshmen accounted for 29 of N.C. State’s 41 points.
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“A lot of things were really good,” said coach Dave Doeren, who improved to 18-2 against teams outside of the Power 5 conferences.
Thomas filled in for Meyers and didn’t miss a beat. Meyers had 14 catches and 161 yards last week in the Wolfpack’s 24-13 win over James Madison but turned his left ankle and was unable to play on Saturday.
That didn’t slow the Wolfpack passing game. Quarterback Ryan Finley threw for 370 yards with both Thomas and Kelvin Harmon (129 yards) cracking the 100-yard mark.
“We have a lot of weapons,” Finley said. “It’s pretty special when I can just throw it out there to a lot of different targets.”
Finley completed 31 of 38 passes for 370 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. Seven different players caught a pass.
Thomas, a former walk-on from Heritage High, was Finley’s favorite target. got He made a tough catch over the middle for 23 yards on the first play of the game. He capped the Pack’s opening drive with a one-handed, 5-yard touchdown grab.
“The guys was holding my jersey in the back so I couldn’t get both hands on it,” Thomas said.
N.C. State needed Thomas, especially early, after the Panthers scored on their first possession. Georgia State quarterback Dan Ellington found receiver Devin Gentry for a 46-yard pickup to set up an 8-yard TD run by Destin Coates at 12:37 in the first quarter.
The Wolfpack scored the next 41 points. Dunn hit the first of two field goals, a 25-yarder, after a little trickeration from Thomas.
Split wide right, Thomas took a step back behind the line of scrimmage and caught a quick screen from Finley. Instead of taking off, he lofted a perfect pass down the middle of the field for Pennix.
Senior running back Reggie Gallaspy made it 17-7 with a 1-yard touchdown run at 10:41 in the second quarter.
For the second straight week, Finley engineered a scoring drive before the end of the first half. A 20-yard strike to Thomas, near the N.C. State sideline, was a key play in the drive. Dunn finished it with a 28-yard field goal on the last play of the half.
N.C. State stretched it out to 27-7 when Finley hit Pennix on a 1-yard touchdown pass at 3:43 in the third quarter.
Pennix finished with three catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 28 yards.
A week after struggling to contain the quarterback run, N.C. State’s defense held Ellington to 30 yards.
Senior Brady Bodine popped a 39-yard touchdown run with 3:12 left. Bodine’s scamper also helped the Wolfpack’s rushing numbers. It finished with 115 yards on 31 carries.
The running game has to be improved and there are some nicked up palyers to get healthy but after two winnable games, N.C. State’s 2-0 with No. 14 West Virginia coming to town next Saturday.
“It’s really important that we’re 2-0 and we’re really excited for next weekend,” Finley said.