UNC-NCSU: Between the Lines

UNC-NCSU: Between the Lines

RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina knew heading into Saturday's rivalry game that, in order to win, the defense had to contain N.C. State's one-man offense – Russell Wilson.

They did not.

Wilson tossed all four of NC State's touchdowns – while completing 74 percent of his passes for 259 yards – which helped deliver a 28-27 victory.

"Like great players do – every week you've got a game plan on a great player – a great player still goes out there and makes plays," junior free safety Deunta Williams said. "And that's what [Wilson] did today."

UNC, however, helped Wilson's efforts with plenty of mental errors.

N.C. State's two first-half scores were created through long drives. In the second half, though, the Wolfpack put points on the board with big plays.

"The one thing, in all cases, you can't do defensively as well as we did at times, you just can't give up big plays," Butch Davis said. "Big plays are the back breakers, because it breathes confidence, it keeps the momentum going in a different direction.

"Some of their big plays today were certainly attributed to their ability to throw the ball, isolate some guys, and they made some plays. We had some breakdowns; we gave up some big plays. That [was] very, very uncharacteristic. Through 12 games, I think you can just about count probably one or two big plays that we've given up. Today we gave up too many plays."

Wilson passed for 39 of the 71 yards on N.C. State's first scoring drive, including a six-yard touchdown to Jarvis Williams. On the second scoring drive, Wilson, who was responsible for 38 yards, received some aid from three 15-yard penalties – two pass interference calls and a personal foul.

"It's like any other kind of game – you don't know exactly what they're going to allow," Davis said of the penalties. "And we found out today that they weren't going to allow anything."

The penalty calls not only gift-wrapped first downs that prolonged the drive and moved N.C. State down the field. They also weighed on the defensive backs' psyche for the remainder of the game.

"Guys were playing a little more cautious," Williams said. "‘CB' [Charles Brown] one time he went for the bat down when he should have went for the pick, but because of the calls – you don't want [a pass interference] call. So he just went for the bat down, missed it, boom a touchdown. I think it affected us a little bit – more so, I think, on that one drive."

During the aforementioned play – the first and only play of N.C. State's second third quarter drive – Wilson hit Owen Spencer nearly in stride 40 yards down the middle of the field. Spencer raced into the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown reception.

Down 27-21 with the ball on their own 47-yard line, N.C. State opened the fourth quarter with a formation they hadn't used up until that point – an empty set (shotgun formation with only Wilson in the backfield).

"[When] they went to ‘empty,' it gave us a little fit today," Williams said. "…We didn't practice empty out of regular formation a lot this week, so it kind of caught us off guard."

The surprise element contributed to N.C. State converting a first down with a 15-yard pass from Wilson to Toney Baker.

Noticing the bewilderment, N.C. State lined up in the empty formation on the very next play. Before the snap, the confusion in the secondary was noticeable. After the snap, Wilson connected with Spencer for a 38-yard touchdown.

"We just didn't communicate as much as we needed to," Burney said. "We needed to get a linebacker all the way out and that didn't happen. [With] miscommunication like that when you have an all-out blitz bad things can happen."

Wilson had one last big play in him. With 3:16 left in the game, up one-point, facing a 3-and-11, Wilson completed a 25-yard pass to Spencer, which virtually sealed UNC's fate.

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RALEIGH, N.C. -- Action photos from the Tar Heels' regular season-ending 28-27 loss to the Wolfpack.

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