The two tailbacks were a tandem all afternoon long, feeding off of each other, momentum and a trend that went against the Wolfpack, a defense that came into the game as a top-20 unit nationally. The Orange ran for 362 yards when it was all said and done.
"We thought that we could run the ball on a good run defense," coach Scott Shafer said after the game. "That defense could stop the run this year and it was a great challenge, but we felt like we could...
"They're an extremely sound defense...they try to out-tough you and out-fundamental you. We knew where they were going to line up, they knew where we were going to line up, so it was a matter of who is going to be the toughest."
Smith led the Orange's gaudy rushing performance with 140 of his own, Gulley added 132 and quarterback Terrel Hunt atoned for a subpar passing performance with 92 yards and a late score on the ground.
"I knew that they flew fast, so if they over-played stuff we could cutback and get upfield and it worked well," Smith said. "Me and Tyson do a good job of watching film and picking up tendencies and stuff like that."
The first quarter was a feeling out affair between the new conference mates, as both defenses performed as advertised. Syracuse came up with some stops behind the line of scrimmage and N.C. State came up with a pair of interceptions courtesy of Jack Tocho.
The second quarter served as the roller coaster in a defensive battle between each school, as both programs either scored a touchdown or turned the ball over each time in the period en route to a 7-7 tie at the break. The Wolfpack gambled offensively all afternoon seemingly leaving points on the board, like on an early fourth-and-goal within the 5-yard line and later on a fake field goal attempt that failed, and the ‘Cuse defense did the rest in a gritty win despite spotty rain and a near-packed Carter-Finley Stadium.
The group was without starting cornerback Keon Lyn going into the game while starters Dyshawn Davis and Eric Crume suffered injuries during the game. They still held the Pack below season averages in total yards, rushing yards and passing yards in addition to producing the program's lowest point total of the year.
Hunt was spotty as a thrower for the Orange, completing just half of his pass attempts (10 of 20) for 74 yards and threw two first-half interceptions. He found holes later in the game and became a true running threat, something that could perhaps be attributed to prowess in another sport early in his development.
"He's a very good athlete, not the fastest rat on the track, but he is a good athlete," Shafer said. "He's a good basketball player, so he's got good vision. We tell him one, two, three, you don't have it? Go play football.
"I like the way he battles."
Pete Thomas started at quarterback for the Wolfpack in place of Brandon Mitchell for the fifth straight game, and he nearly mirrored Hunt s effort as both a passer and runner before injuring his shoulder late in the game. Thomas threw for a score to tie the game late in the second quarter, but also threw an early interception in addition to running much more effectively in the second half.
- Syracuse LB Dyshawn Davis injured his ankle in the second quarter and did not return. Shafer said he was fitted for a boot and has an ankle sprain after the game.
- Smith didn't have a 100-yard game to his name prior to last week, and now has hit the mark in back-to-back games.
- N.C. State is now 0-3 in the ACC and Syracuse moves to 1-1 in the conference.
- The game was Hunt's first career road start.