Nyheim Hines ran for 115 yards, Jaylen Samuels scored another touchdown (his eighth of the season) and quarterback Ryan Finley made a spectacular one-handed catch, but these are the five non-scoring plays that helped N.C. State to a 33-25 home win over Syracuse on Saturday:
1. Johnathan Alston’s interception
Score: N.C. State, 3-0
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Time: 7:31, first quarter
Field position: second-and -7 on the Syracuse 28
On Syracuse’s second offensive snap of the game, quarterback Eric Dungey tried to test Alston. Dungey lofted up a jump ball down the N.C. State sideline for receiver Devin C. Butler. Alston, who started the game but split snaps with cornerback Mike Stevens, out-jumped Butler for the ball at the N.C. State 43-yard line.
N.C. State’s offense extended its lead to 6-0, after a 48-yard field goal by Carson Wise, on the ensuing drive.
Alston’s interception was the only turnover in the game. N.C. State hasn’t turned the ball over since fumbling twice in the South Carolina game and is now an ACC-best plus-6 on the season.
2. Kentavius Street’s fourth-down stop
Score: N.C. State, 19-7
Time: 7:47, second quarter
Field position: fourth-and-1 on the N.C. State 17
Dungey moved Syracuse inside the Wolfpack 20 and could have tightened the game up earlier with a touchdown on this drive. The play was designed for Dungey to run right, and follow lead blocker Chris Elmore, a 280-pound tight end. Syracuse left tackle Cody Conway didn’t even block defensive end Kentavius Street, by design.
So when Dungey, who finished the game as Syracuse’s leading rusher with 44 yards, decided to cut back to the left, Street was waiting for him. Defensive tackle B.J. Hill came in with the second hit and made sure Dungey didn’t pick up the first down.
3. Devin M. Butler’s costly penalty
Score: N.C. State, 19-7
Time: 5:26, second quarter
Field position: third-and-8 on the N.C. State 32
Another missed chance by Syracuse to make this a tighter game in the first half.
Cornerback Scoop Bradshaw, who played well for the Orange defense, jumped a comeback route to N.C. State Stephen Louis. The interception would have given Syracuse the ball at the plus-38 yard line.
Instead, cornerback Devin M. Butler had tackled receiver C.J. Riley in the slot and was flagged for a defensive holding penalty. The interception was wiped out – the second week in a row Ryan Finley’s interception-less streak has been saved by a penalty – and six plays later, Samuels ran for a 16-yard touchdown.
Finley hasn’t thrown an interception since the Miami game last November. Officially, he has not thrown an interception in 257 pass attempts.
4. Ryan Finley’s third-down run
Score: N.C. State, 26-17
Time: 13:00, fourth quarter
Field position: third-and-9 on the 50
With a chance to give the ball back to Dungey, who finished the game with 398 passing yards, Syracuse defensive end Kingsley Jonathan got pressure on Finley. The N.C. State quarterback stepped up in the pocket and then took off. Out in the open field, Finley looked for the marker and dove for it, past linebacker Zaire Franklin, for the first down. Five plays later, Hines scored a 1-yard touchdown to provide the winning margin.
5. Finley’s fourth-down run
Score: N.C. State, 33-25
Time: 2:57, fourth quarter
Field position: fourth-and-1 on the Syracuse 37
For the second game in a row, N.C. State’s offense had the ball and needed only a first down to put the game away. Finley picked up 9 yards on a quarterback keep on second down. Samuels looked like he had enough for the first down on a third-down run but was marked short by the officials.
On fourth down, Finley was able to sneak between center Garrett Bradbury and right guard Tony Adams for 2 yards. Syracuse was out of timeouts and N.C. State bled out the clock for the win.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio