RALEIGH, N.C. – The N.C. State Wolfpack put in some heavy, extra reps when it opened the 2018 season with a 24-13 win over the James Madison Dukes at Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday.
Quarterback Ryan Finley completed 29-of-43 pass attempts for 309 yards and two touchdowns in the two teams’ first-ever meeting.
Thayer Thomas (1 catch, 16 yards) and C.J. Riley (4 catches, 45 yards) claimed touchdown passes to provide offensive momentum for the Wolfpack in the first half, while a late rushing TD from running back Reggie Gallaspy, Jr. completed the win.
Defensively, linebacker Germaine Pratt led with 12 total tackles followed by 10-tackle finishes from safety Jarius Morehead and linebacker Isaiah Moore.
This was by no means an easy game for N.C. State to start the season with.
The Dukes, reigning three-time Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) champions in NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) play, held strong on both sides of the ball throughout the contest.
Former Pitt quarterback Ben DiNucci started for the Dukes and gave a rebuilding Wolfpack defense a formidable challenge.
DiNucci finished the game 23-of-27 for 197 yards and one touchdown.
N.C. State’s loss of its entire 2017 defensive front line to the NFL, led by Bradley Chubb, who was in attendance, seemed to play a role in what was at times, a defensively inconsistent showing.
Even while presenting a front four that had combined to play in over 100 contests coming into the season, the Wolfpack struggled to contain the JMU passing and running games.
The Dukes earned 365 all-purpose yards and went 3-of-5 in the red zone.
However, Finley’s management of the Wolfpack offense maneuvered effectively enough with big pass receptions that resulted in enough scoring to earn the win.
After opening the game’s scoring, JMU’s defense contended with three consecutive N.C. State drives that resulted in scores as place kicker Christopher Dunn’s field goal was followed by passing receptions for touchdowns from Thomas and Riley, respectively.
However, a scoreless third quarter for the Wolfpack made it interesting, and forced the defense to execute in the final period.
A successful Wolfpack stand denied DiNucci and JMU on third-and-goal and limited the Dukes to a successful field goal attempt from Ethan Ratke, his second of the game from 19 yards out.
The N.C. State lead was 17-13 with 6:59 to play.
Finley and the Wolfpack had little room for error, and they made their next drive count.
A 39-yard pass connected with Jacobi Meyers (14 catches, 161 yards) and put N.C. State on the JMU 28-yard line.
Another successful catch from Meyers and a 12-yard rush from Gallaspy, Jr. set up a six-yard run for the running back that put the finishing touch on the game’s scoring and the win for the Wolfpack.
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport