Big Plays Lead to Pack's Belk Bowl Win Over Louisville, 31-24
Dec. 27, 2011
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Thanks to big plays on offense, and even bigger plays on defense, NC State downed Louisville in the 2011 Belk Bowl in Charlotte Tuesday evening, 31-24. Junior QB Mike Glennon took home MVP honors, as he finished with 21-of-33 for 264 yards and three touchdowns on the night.
"Certainly the game went like we thought it would," said Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien. "It came down to a couple plays right there down at the end."
Senior WR T.J. Graham caught 7 passes for 116 yards and a pair of touchdown grabs. Also playing in his final game at NC State, Audie Cole finished with a game-high 10 tackles, including a pair of sacks and four tackles for loss.
After Louisville retuned the opening kick to their 41 yard line, the Cardinals got the ball down to the State 24. The Pack defense held its ground, as J.R. Sweezy's quarterback pressure led Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater to hurry his pass over the middle where Terrell Manning made his third interception of the season.
NC State wasted no time and took its opening drive into the endzone. Mike Glennon orchestrated a no-huddle offensive drive, capped with his touchdown pass to Graham from six yards out. The drive covered 69 yards on 14 plays and the Pack grabbed a 7-0 lead with 5:39 left in the first quarter.
For the first time since the North Carolina game, a span of four games, the Pack got into the scoring column first.
Louisville responded with a 63-yard catch on the first play of its next possession, but a Markus Kuhn sack on third down forced the Cardinals to attempted a 52-yard field goal which fell short.
After an NC State three-and-out, punter Wil Baumann fumbled the snap and Louisville set up its drive at the 5-yard line. Bridgewater would scamper 8 yards on third down to tie the game 7-7 with 1:06 left in the first quarter.
The teams trading punts to start the second quarter, then the Cardinals forced a Glennon interception and took the ensuing drive 48 yards and capped it with a 32-yard field goal to take the lead at 10-7 with 6:07 left in the first half.
NC State answered right back, covering 80 yards in just five plays and taking 1:58 off the clock. The drive was capped by Glennon firing a 35-yard laser to Tobais Palmer, and NC State retook the lead at 14-10.
Louisville took the next kickoff 58 yards to the State 40, but Audie Cole came up with a one-yard tackle for loss to stuff the Louisville drive on fourth down and the Pack took over on downs.
NC State's offense struck again with another touchdown less than two minutes before the half to push its lead to 21-10. Glennon found Graham once again, with the wideout breaking tackles and giving Glennon his third TD pass of the day from 68 yards out.
NC State started the second half like it ended the first, with more points on the scoreboard. The Pack took its opening drive, and thanks to a pair of Louisville personal fouls, Niklas Sade kicked a 34-yard field goal.
Then the Pack's All-American David Amerson struck again notching his first interception of the day, and returning it 65 yards for the defensive score and the 31-10 lead.
"You never feel like it's over at that point," said O'Brien. "You have to give the defense credit. They were out there a long time, but they made plays when it counted."
The Cardinals came down on the next series and cut into the lead, with a 10-play, 71-yard drive culminating with a 2-yard TD pass to pull Louisville to 31-17. A fake punt that resulted in a rush of 37 yards was the key to the drive.
Louisville used another trick play on special teams on the ensuing kickoff, as the Cardinals converted an onside kick and took over possession at their own 40. But the Pack held them to a three-and-out and another punt.
After a Pack turnover, the NC State defense came up strong once again and snuffed out a Louisville scoring attempt. The Cardinals moved the ball down to the Pack's 34 yard line, but Terrell Manning and Brandan Bishop combined for a one-yard loss on fourth-and-one.
The Cardinals once again cut into the Pack's lead with a 2-yard TD pass that made the score 31-24 with 3:55 left.
Louisville went to the special teams well once too often, as the Cardinals came out and tried another onside kick, but Bishop covered the ball cleanly and set the Pack up at the Louisville 41. The Cardinals held the Pack to a three-and-out, and took over at their 35 yard line with 1:35 left.
After a pickup of 20 yards, the Cardinals were stymied by the Pack's defense. First Cole struck with a two-yard sack, followed by Dontea Johnson's 11-yard sack on third down. The Cardinals fourth down play was a heave downfall, which was intercepted by Amerson for his second of the game.
Amerson broke the ACC record single season record for most interceptions in a season, finishing the year with 13. The only other player in NCAA history with more interceptions in a season is Al Worley from Washington in 1968.