RALEIGH, N.C. – The N.C. State Wolfpack defense was caught off-guard early against the Georgia State Panthers at Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday, but made up for it quickly.
A productive ground game softened the GSU defense and allowed quarterback Ryan Finley and the Wolfpack to manufacture points with short and long-yardage passes to gradually pile up a 41-7 win.
N.C. State now sits at 2-0 on the season.
Finley completed 31-of-38 pass attempts for 370 yards and two touchdowns while receivers Thayer Thomas (9 catches, 114 yards) and Trent Pennix (3 catches, 66 yards) claimed touchdown passes to provide offensive momentum for the Wolfpack in the first half.
Kelvin Harmon led all receivers with 129 yards on eight catches.
Reggie Gallaspy (11 rushes, 24 yards) ran in a touchdown, while placekicker Christopher Dunn put two field goals (25, 28 yards) through the uprights as the rushing and special teams units contributed to the win.
Defensively, linebackers Germaine Pratt and Isaiah Moore, along with Tanner Ingle led with seven total tackles followed by a six-tackle finish from safety Jarius Morehead.
One that got away – just one
Following a 65-yard kickoff from Kyle Bambard that went out-of-bounds for a touchback, N.C. State’s defense was challenged immediately.
Georgia State quarterback Dan Ellington (15-28, 195 yards) led a six-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in the game’s opening score from Destin Coates (6 carries, 43 yards).
The Panthers, out of the Sunbelt Conference, were the first FBS opponent and second consecutive first-time opponent the Wolfpack faced in as many games.
However, it didn’t take long for N.C. State to adjust, denying any further scoring attempts, and holding a 10-7 lead following the opening quarter.
GSU finished the game compiling 349 all-purpose yards, while the Wolfpack racked up 541 total – 115 on the ground to go with 426 in the air.
After rifling a 20-yard strike to C.J. Riley, Finley completed a 10-play, 80-yard drive with a 1-yard handoff to Gallaspy that extended the Wolfpack lead to 10 points.
Ellington and his offense, which included preseason All-America receiver Penny Hart (3 catches, 53 yards), tried to break through the Wolfpack defense, but struggled following GSU’s opening possession.
A missed field goal attempt from 44 yards with 46 seconds remaining was the closest the Panthers came to scoring again during the first half, and eventually the remainder of the game.
N.C. State took advantage of the remaining time as Finley found Thomas open on a 24-yard passing play that put the ball at the GSU 10-yard line.
Dunn connected on his second field goal of the game and extended the Wolfpack lead to 20-7 at halftime.
Piling it on
For the final 30 minutes, the Wolfpack defense continued to put a stranglehold on Ellington and the Panther offense, while Finley and his offense added insurance points.
Following an N.C. State TD pass to Pennix at the 3:43 mark of the third quarter, GSU’s best opportunity to score was stifled by an offensive pass interference call on the Panthers.
A subsequent Eurndraus Bryant block on GSU’s field goal attempt from 34 yards was the final major stop of the game that eventually completed a 57-plus minute N.C. State shutout against the Panthers.
Running back Brady Bodine (5 rushes, 50 yards) and redshirt freshman quarterback Matthew McKay, who came into the game with just over a minute to play, both ran in touchdowns and finished the game’s scoring and finalized the dominating performance over the Panthers.
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport