N.C. State needed a “get right” game after last week’s loss to Wake Forest.
Enter Louisville, the only team winless in ACC play and the only one with an interim coach.
N.C. State scored 45 straight points to blast the hapless Cardinals 52-10 on the road on Saturday.
The Wolfpack (7-3, 4-3 ACC) got four touchdown passes from quarterback Ryan Finley and three total touchdowns from running back Reggie Gallaspy in the payback rout.
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“I think you saw our team have a lot of fun today and I think that’s when we play our best,” Finley said.
After a crushing 27-23 home loss to Wake Forest last Thursday, N.C. State needed to feel good, or at least better. The loss to the Demon Deacons knocked N.C. State out of the College Football Playoff rankings and ruined any chance at a major bowl bid.
Louisville had its own problems with coach Bobby Petrino getting fired on Sunday and the team coming off of a lopsided loss (54-23) at Syracuse.
Not that N.C. State was too concerned about Louisville’s problems.
“It’s just football,” said receiver Kelvin Harmon, who finished with seven catches for 100 yards. “We know that you have to bounce back and come back to work the next week. We couldn’t afford to get another loss on our schedule. We just had to execute. I’m glad we did that.”
There was also the matter of the embarrassment of N.C. State’s last visit to Louisville.
The Cardinals (2-8, 0-8) beat N.C. State on 54-13 on the same field in 2016. It was 44-0 at the half of the game, a high-water mark for Petrino with star quarterback Lamar Jackson.
With Jackson in the NFL, the Cardinals fell apart this season. Petrino was fired two days after the listless loss at Syracuse and the 0-7 ACC start.
Interim coach Lorenzo Wade had the players fired up for the start of the game. The Cardinals forced a three-and-out on N.C. State’s opening possession and then got a 32-yard field goal from Blanton Creque for a 3-0 lead.
The feel-good excitement didn’t last long.
“We knew kind of the situation (for Louisville) but we just knew we had to come down here and play our game,” Finley said.
That’s what N.C. State did. After falling behind 3-0, the Wolfpack scored the game’s next 45 points. Finley found Harmon on a 25-yard touchdown pass for N.C. State’s first score. Gallaspy ran for two scores and caught his first career touchdown pass.
Harmon joined Torry Holt (1997-98) and Jerricho Cotchery (2002-03) as the only receivers in school history to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
Harmon wasn’t the only player to move up the N.C. State record books. Finley, who finished with 316 yards, moved to second in school history (to Philip Rivers) in career passing yards (9,757).
“Pretty awesome for those guys and it’s great to get the win,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said.
The last time Finley was here, he was benched at the half of that lopsided 2016 loss. It was the complete opposite for the sixth-year quarterback and the entire N.C. State team on Saturday.