In four of its five losses this season, NC State has been one or two plays away. Field goals against East Carolina and Clemson cost the Wolfpack. A late interception against Boston College and a dropped pick against Florida State shattered hopes of crucial ACC wins.On Saturday in the Carrier Dome, State finally got its much-needed first road victory of the season. And unlike the past forays with tough teams on the road, the Pack clinched the win before the final drives of the fourth quarter thanks to a three-touchdown performance from Matt Dayes.State’s win comes after a four-game losing streak in ACC play, two of which came on the road in Clemson and Louisville. Despite those somber losses, the Pack hasn’t lost touch of what it needs to do to land in a bowl game.”The resiliency of our football team, losing four of our five games by a possession, they’ve been able to stick together,” Dave Doeren said. “I’m really proud of them today. This gets that carrot in front of their nose for the bowl opportunity. You want to feel the pleasure of your work and you can’t do that by almost winning. This gives them the satisfaction of the grind and they needed that today.”Ryan Finley completed 20-of-29 pass attempts for 340 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, converting 10-of-18 third-down attempts. After throwing seven interceptions in the last four games, Saturday was a revelation for the Boise State transfer. “I think we converted three different third and longs,” Doeren said. “Credit to Ryan Finley for finding open guys and those guys catching it and doing something. That’s impressive. Ryan threw for 340 yards today so a great job by him throwing the ball and those guys catching it for him, making plays.”Strong defensive play in the first half by both teams kept the score at 14-10 for NC State heading into the locker rooms. It didn’t take long for the passing games to open up in the second half, though.Wolfpack receiver Kelvin Harmon turned Finley’s slant pass into a 68-yard touchdown play when he squeezed between two colliding Syracuse defenders. Two plays later, Cuse quarterback Zack Mahoney connected with wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo on an 81-yard bomb that NC State’s lead to 21-17.That was when Dayes took over again. After a Cole Murphy field goal for the Orange, Dayes followed up his seven-yard rushing TD with a scores from 20 and 13 yards yards out in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.”He’s averaging 100 yards per game so that’s what we do,” Doeren said of Dayes. “He’s our back. He’s a great player. He deserves the football.”With his performance Saturday, Dayes is now among the top rushers in the country with 939 rushing yards and 61 yards from becoming the Pack’s first 1,000-yard runner since T.A. McClendon in 2002. His seven 100-yard rushing games this season also marks the first time that’s been accomplished since Joe McIntosh in 1981.In order for State to keep winning, it will need more brilliant performances from Dayes in the final two weeks. With Miami (6-4, 3-4 ACC) heading into Carter-Finley Stadium next Saturday, a bowl berth and some Wolfpack history could be riding on Dayes’ shoulders ahead of a trip to Chapel Hill.
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