RALEIGH — NC State picked up its third ACC win and second in a row with a 20-6 win over Miami on Saturday night at Carter-Finley Stadium, making NC State coach Dave Doeren the all-time winningest coach in school history with his 78th career win.
“There was a time where there were some other schools trying to get me to leave here and we decided to stay,” Doeren said. When I came back and met with the team, met with the staff, one of the things I said was that, ‘I’m here and I want to win the record. I want to be the winningest coach in NC State football history.’ That mattered to me.”
It was yet another big performance for the Wolfpack’s defense, which didn’t give up a single touchdown to the Hurricanes (6-3, 2-3 ACC) — the first time NC State (6-3, 3-2 ACC) has done that against an ACC opponent since 2011 — and forced four turnovers.
“This is our standard,” said NC State graduate linebacker Payton Wilson. “Against Notre Dame when we didn’t play well, against Duke when we didn’t play well, this is what we were supposed to do. When we walk onto that field, this is what we want to do to every single opponent.”
Junior defensive backs Aydan White and Devan Boykin each picked off Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke — freshman Brandon Cisse also grabbed a third interception on the final play of the game — and junior defensive lineman Red Hibbler forced Van Dyke to fumble, which was recovered by junior defensive tackle Davin Vann.
It seemed early on the Hurricanes were going to control the game with its running attack, but every time Miami got down field, the Wolfpack’s defense held.
Time and again,NC State’s defense thwarted Miami’s pushes, and no play was bigger than its fourth-and-1 stand in the third quarter from NC State’s 3.
Leading 10-6, the Wolfpack stopped Hurricanes running back Mark Fletcher on third down just a yard shy of the first down. On the following play, junior defensive back Shyheim Battle stopped Fletcher to force a turnover on downs.
“We harped on that the whole week,” White said on the red zone holds. “If they get down there, don’t let them score.”
NC State then put together its longest drive of the game, going 97 yards. The drive was capped off when freshman running back Kendrick Raphael bounced off a Miami defender for a 31-yard touchdown run for his first collegiate touchdown.
Before that drive, the Wolfpack offense had put together only 138 yards of total offense and had three straight three-and-outs.
“We were able to protect and run the football efficiently,” Doeren said of the 97-yard drive. “We didn’t have penalties and we had a really big third-down conversion from MJ (Morris) to KC (Concepcion). That was a big play to get us off the goal line. From there, we were just steadily efficient moving the ball downfield. Brennan (Armstrong) came in too and gave us some really good, tough yards. He sparked us with some stuff that he did.”
Linebacker-turned-running back Jordan Poole, who had made the move to offense just two weeks ago, got his first career touchdown on his first career touch, catching a Morris pass and taking it in for a 12-yard score.
“I can’t even explain it,” Poole said of his touchdown. “It was surreal. Probably the most nervous I’ve been and the most happy I’ve been in a while. … (The touchdown play) went exactly as it was supposed to be ran, really. I mean, it’s only my second week (on offense), so they’ve never seen the play for one and most of the time I’m blocking and whatnot, so it went perfect.
“(Switching to running back) was really something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. It was something that I felt like I could do. If I never asked it would probably have been something that I would have regretted for a long time. I really just wanted to help the team.”
While it was not necessarily a banner night for the offense — Morris had two turnovers, throwing an interception and fumbling the ball within his own 30 — the defense covered for him each time.
The victory also gave Doeren a win over every current ACC school and made NC State bowl eligible for the ninth time in Doeren’s 11 seasons in Raleigh.
The Wolfpack head down Tobacco Road for a game at Wake Forest (4-5, 1-5 ACC) next week.