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.