Jaylen Samuels

Associated Press

South Carolina uses goal-line stand to survive NC State

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South Carolina returned a kickoff for a touchdown and turned two fumbles into touchdowns and still needed a deflection inside its own end zone to survive NC State, holding on for a 35-28 win in Charlotte.

Deebo Samuel started the year for the Gamecocks as well as he possibly could, taking the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. The game turned into a shootout for there.

NC State answered Samuel’s touchdown with a 14-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 6-yard Ryan Finley scoring run. South Carolina answered that answer when Jake Bentley found Rico Dowdle for a 34-yard score at the 3:53 mark of the first quarter.

And NC State again responded, this time on a 2-yard Nyheim Hines run to close the first quarter in a 14-14 tie.

South Carolina’s Chris Lammons forced a fumble by NC State receiver Stephon Lewis inside NC State territory, and South Carolina capitalized on a 6-yard toss from Bentley to Samuel at the 10:02 mark of the second quarter.

NC State tied the game again with its third lengthy drive of the half — 79 yards in 10 plays — closing on a 4-yard strike from Finely to Jakobi Meyers.

South Carolina opened the second half with two straight scores. The first came on a 39-yard strike from Bentley (17-of-29 for 215 yards and three touchdowns with one interception)

to Samuel on the ‘Cocks opening touch of the second half, and the third came two plays after another Wolfpack fumble inside its own territory; Dowdle staked South Carolina to a 35-21 lead on a 7-yard dash at the 9:08 mark of the third quarter.

That would be the last output from South Carolina’s offense, while its defense had to survive an onslaught of plays from NC State. The Wolfpack ran 99 plays, 64 of them passes from Finley.

A 4th-and-goal completion from Finely to Jaylen Samuels (15 catches for 85 yards) pulled NC State within seven at the 12:21 mark of the fourth quarter, but the pair could not hook up again after NC State moved to a 1st-and-goal from the South Carolina 8-yard line with 24 seconds remaining. Finley (45-of-64 for 415 yards for two touchdowns with no interceptions) fired three incomplete passes surrounded by one sack, allowing South Carolina to escape with the win.

The victory pushed South Carolina to 1-0 for the 17th time in 18 tries since the turn of the century and 3-0 in Charlotte openers. The Gamecocks also beat East Carolina at Bank of America Stadium to open the 2011 season and toppled North Carolina to begin the ’15 campaign. NC State (0-1) fell to 26-28-4 against South Carolina all-time and 0-3 since the turn of the century.

NC State smashes Vanderbilt in Independence Bowl rout

Associated Press
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NC State was too much for Vanderbilt on Monday night. More specifically, the pitch-and-catch combination of Ryan Finley-to-Jaylen Samuels was too much for Vanderbilt, as the Wolfpack raced to a 41-17 Independence Bowl victory in Shreveport, La.

Finley and Samuels hooked up six times for 104 yards and three decisive touchdowns on the night. The first came at the 9:08 mark of the second quarter, a 9-yard strike to put NC State on top 7-3, handing the club a lead it would not relinquish. The second connection came nearly eight minutes later, a 55-yard snatch-and-dash that all but put the game out of reach at 14-3.

After a 5-yard scoring rush by Reggie Gallaspy II pushed the lead to 21-3, Finley’s third and final strike to Samuels, a 17-yard connection, put the game out of reach with 5:34 still to play in the third quarter.

Vanderbilt briefly climbed back in the game when Ralph Webb posted a 30-yard touchdown run and Khari Blasingame bulled in from the 1-yard line to pull the Commodores within 28-17 with 10:37 left in the game, but NC State (7-6) immediately ended any comeback hopes when Nyheim Hines raced the ensuing kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown.

Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmer provided NC State its final score of the night when Niles Clark returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown as time expired. Shurmur finished the night hitting 19-of-46 passes for 158 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. Vanderbilt (6-7) managed 156 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 4.5 yards per carry.

Finley closed his season connecting on 19-of-30 passes for 235 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Matthew Dayes led the Pack on the ground with nine carries for 47 yards.

The win pushed the ACC to 2-0 in bowl games pitting 6-6 teams and clinched at least a .500 record for the conference against the SEC in 2016. The ACC is now 7-3 against its southeastern rival with three games and the possibility of a Clemson-Alabama CFP national championship still remaining.

No. 22 Florida State survives upset-minded NC State

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NC State threatened another upset of an ACC power but again came just short, as No. 22 Florida State escaped Raleigh with a 24-20 win on Saturday night.

Florida State trailed for almost the entire game and faced a 20-10 deficit after NC State’s Jaylen Samuels raced in from 23 yards out — capping a 9-play, 99-yard drive — but the Seminoles mustered enough offense when they had to have it. The ‘Noles answered that marathon drive with a long march of their own, moving 70 yards in seven plays, the last 10 of which came on the legs of Dalvin Cook on the final play of the third quarter.

After three consecutive punts, Deondre Francois hit three long passes — a 27-yard strike to Kermit Whitfield, a 37-yard connection to Nyqwan Murray and a 19-yard gain to Travis Rudolph — as all the yards necessary for an 83-yard touchdown drive to take a 24-20 lead with 3:09 to play in the game.

The Wolfpack tried to mount a response, but, after securing a 1st-and-10 at the FSU 24 with 1:19 remaining, quarterback Ryan Finley completed a pass for a 2-yard loss and fired incomplete three other times to turn the ball over on downs.

Finley was the majority of the offense for NC State; he completed 25-of-41 passes for 304 yards with a touchdown and an interception on the night while being credited for 12 rushes for 20 yards. Three other Pack runners combined for only 145 yards on 29 rushes.

Francois hit 22-of-39 throws for 330 yards and a touchdown while Cook mustered only 65 yards on 18 carries.

For NC State, the loss drops the club to 4-5 and 0-3 against the heavies of the ACC Atlantic, games Dave Doeren needed to win as his name pops up in hot seat talk with the season coming to a close.

Florida State, meanwhile, moves to 6-3 overall and 3-3 in the ACC. The Seminoles close with Boston College, a road trip to Syracuse and a home date with Florida on Thanksgiving Saturday.