CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) – Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns and had a key run in the third quarter to set up another score that helped North Carolina State beat No. 25 North Carolina 41-10 on Saturday.
Wilson’s 26-yard keeper set up Andre Brown’s short touchdown run in a 21-point third quarter for N.C. State (5-6, 3-4 Atlantic Coast Conference). The Wolfpack kept their bowl hopes alive with their second straight win against their biggest rival.
Jamelle Eugene also ran for two touchdowns, part of N.C. State’s surprising domination of a team that entered Saturday with slim hopes of winning the ACC’s muddled Coastal Division race.
Wilson finished with a career-high 279 yards passing to go with 50 yards rushing. The redshirt freshman also extended his interception-free streak to a school-record 203 passes, part of a turnover-free day against a defense that has been one of the nation’s best at forcing mistakes.
Instead, the Tar Heels (7-4, 3-4) were beaten soundly in easily their worst performance of the season. North Carolina committed six turnovers – two on fumbles by starting tailback Shaun Draughn in the opening 5 minutes – and did little on offense despite the return of quarterback T.J. Yates to the starting lineup.
N.C. State finished with 466 total yards and converted 8 of 17 third downs.
Yates started all 12 games last year and the first three this season before breaking his left ankle while being taken down on a sack against Virginia Tech in September. One-time third-stringer Cameron Sexton had won four of six starts since, but coach Butch Davis opened the competition in practice this week after Sexton’s shaky performance in last weekend’s loss against Maryland.
Yates completed 10 of 22 passes for 116 yards and an interception before Davis opted to go with Sexton midway through the fourth quarter. By then, the Tar Heels trailed 34-10 – though it might not have mattered who started at quarterback the way everything else broke down.
The Wolfpack managed to convert only one of Draughn’s early fumbles into a field goal and led 10-3 at halftime on Wilson’s 17-yard TD pass to George Bryan. Then, leading 17-10, N.C. State put the game out of reach.
Wilson’s long keeper set up a 2-yard scoring run by Brown to make it 24-10. Then, a play after tight end Richard Quinn fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, Wilson connected with Owen Spencer for a 21-yard touchdown over the middle to push the lead to 31-10 with 1:14 left in the third quarter.
Sexton wasn’t much better than Yates, throwing two interceptions. N.C. State returned the second near the goal line, setting up a second TD run from Eugene that delighted the thousands of red-clad Wolfpack fans crowded into a corner of Kenan.
Ryan Houston scored North Carolina’s only touchdown on a 5-yard run, while Draughn ran for 56 yards in a forgettable performance.