Wilson has breakout game for N.C. State
Published 12:05 am Sunday, September 21, 2008
By STEVE FRANKLIN
RALEIGH - A star was born in Raleigh Saturday afternoon.
North Carolina State redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Wilson, making just his third career start, ripped East Carolina’s 16th ranked pass defense to shreds as he threw for 210 yards and three touchdown passes to lead the Wolfpack past the No. 15 Pirates, 30-24 in overtime.
“He’s taken to heart what people are saying about him,” said N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien of the hype surrounding his young quarterback. “He was determined to win and he had that ‘refuse to lose’ attitude.”
In the second quarter, after the Pirates had gone up 7-0 on Van Eskridge’s 23-yard interception return off an errant pass by Wolfpack backup QB Harrison Beck, Wilson came in an marched his team down field on a 10-play, 46-yard scoring drive that ended with his first career touchdown pass to senior Andre Brown.
On the scoring play, Wilson was under heavy duress, but rolled to his right and found Brown in the back of the end zone for a four-yard touchdown toss.
“I knew he had a lot of potential,” Brown said. “He took a big step forward today. He was able to scramble around and buy time for his receivers to get open.”
On the opening drive of the second half, Wilson engineered a seven-play, 60-yard scoring drive that once again pulled the Pack even with the Pirates, 14-14.
During the drive, Wilson completed all three of his pass attempts for 53 yards, including a 20-yard scoring strike to Jarvis Williams on 3rd-and-17.
“As the game goes on you get more comfortable and you get to know the speed of the game,” Wilson said. “I believe in myself and I definitely believe in my teammates.”
His confidence and moxie were on display late in the fourth quarter.
With East Carolina leading 24-17 after Pirates’ field goal kicker Ben Hartman booted a 21-yard field goal with 4:27 remaining, Wilson took charge.
T.J. Graham returned the ensuing kickoff to the Pack 45 yard line and from there Wilson led his first fourth quarter comeback.
On the opening play of the drive, Wilson delivered a bullet down field to Williams for a 26-yard gain to the Pirates’ 29 yard line. On the next play, he connected with Brown for a gain of 17 down to ECU’s 12 yard line. He then scampered for three yards and hooked up with tight end Bryan George on a eight-yard pass to the ECU 1. After a false start penalty moved the ball back to the five-yard line, Wilson completed the comeback. He delivered a low line drive to George, who snared it before hitting the turf. The pass was originally ruled incomplete, but was later overturned, making it 24-24 and eventually forcing overtime.
“Russell did a good job,” Williams said. “He was getting out of the pocket, he was looking down the field, and he was making plays with his feet and his arm. He was using all his tools and his weapons and we made sure we capitalized on them”.
In the extra period, after the Pack defense forced ECU senior quarterback Patrick Pinkney to fumble on the opening possession, Wilson took a back seat and let Brown, a Greenville native, spoil East Carolina’s hopes at an unbeaten season as he carried two times for 26 yards, the last of which was a 10-yard score to give State a 30-24 win.
Afterward, Brown praised Wilson for his leadership on that final drive.
“Russell got me going,” Brown said. “He told, “Yo, ‘Dre this one’s all you. You’re going to punch it in. He played like a star today.”