NC State tops UConn in Armstrong’s debut

NC State safety Bishop Fitzgerald (19) and defensive back Robert Kennedy (8) break up a pass to UConn wide receiver James Burns during Thursday’s season opener in East Hartford, Connecticut. (Bryan Woolston / AP Photo)

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — NC State quarterback Brennan Armstrong threw for 155 yards and ran for 96 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Wolfpack to a 24-14 road win Thursday over UConn in the season opener for both teams.

The grad transfer from Virginia completed 17 of 26 passes and carried the ball 19 times, including on touchdown runs of 4 and 8 yards.

Victor Rosa ran for 99 yards and scored both of UConn’s touchdowns, including a 71-yard run that got the Huskies to within three points in the third quarter.

But he somersaulted into the end zone at the end of the run and that celebration forced the Huskies to kick off from the 20-yard line.

The Wolfpack’s Julian Gray returned the kick 40 yards, and another 15 yards was added after the Wolfpack’s Rakeim Ashford was hit on the sideline at the end of the play.

Ashford lay motionless for more than 10 minutes and was taken off the field on a stretcher. His condition was not immediately known, but coach Dave Doeren said after the game that preliminary reports from medical personnel were “positive.”

“They’re going to keep him overnight to make sure, but every test they’ve done so far is OK,” he said.

The Wolfpack had to drive just 27 yards for the score and Armstrong’s second touchdown run of the game, an e 8-yard scramble up the middle gave the Wolfpack their winning margin.

“Having that extra runner as a quarterback kind of helps you as an offense, right,” Armstrong said. “I just felt like the game needed my feet and that’s just kind of what happened.”

UConn jumped out early, with quarterback Joe Fagnano hitting on all three of his passes on a 12-play, 75-yard opening drive. Rosa capped that off with an 18-yard touchdown run over the right side.

But the Huskies had just 50 yards of offense the rest of the half. The Wolfpack held the Huskies to 273 total yards.

Fagnano finished 14 of 26 for 113 yards and an interception, from linebacker Payton Wilson that sealed the win with under a minute to go.

“It was neck-and-neck and we were fighting hard and then we imploded a little bit there at the end of the third quarter,” UConn coach Jim Mora said.

NC State had a 66-yard drive on its first possession, with Armstrong keeping the ball for a 4-yard touchdown run.

The Wolfpack’s Brayden Narveson hit a 44-yard field goal as time expired in the first half and NC State led 10-7 at intermission.

The takeaway

Ashford’s injury changed the entire mood of the game. Replays showed him being blindsided just after Gray was tackled. A cart was brought onto the field, but not used. Ashford was eventually strapped to a stretcher and wheeled off the field. UConn’s Isiah Davis was called for unnecessary roughness on the play.

Mora has been vocal about his hopes that UConn can get an invite into a Power Five football conference and a win over an ACC opponent would have helped that cause. The Huskies play three more Power Five games this year, against Duke, Boston College and Tennessee.

Ground Pack

The Wolfpack finished with 209 yards rushing, after averaging 114 a year ago and failing to rush for 100 yards in their final three games of the season. Senior Jordan Houston had 57 yards on 13 carries.

Experience at QB

Both teams started transfers at quarterback. Fagnano played for three years at Maine. Armstrong, who threw for over 9,000 yards at Virginia, was reunited at NC State with two former coaches, offensive coordinator Robert Anae, who held that position with the Cavaliers in 2021 and offensive line coach Garret Tujague.

“I’m just trying to play every snap like it’s my last, because it could be eventually,” Armstrong said. “We play a violent sport so there’s an urgency involved in that.”

Up next

NC State: The Wolfpack host No. 13 Notre Dame on Sept. 9.

UConn: The Huskies play their first road game at Georgia State on Sept. 9.


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