RALEIGH — Late in the first half, it looked like South Carolina might beat NC State twice.
The Gamecocks beat the Wolfpack in the season opener last week, sticking a pin in the high expectations the Pack took into the 2017 season.
Saturday, in the home opener against Marshall, State appeared to be struggling from a post-loss hangover. Perhaps the Wolfpack players spent a little too much time thinking about what went wrong against South Carolina, and too little thinking about the Herd.
“I feel like we just came out a little flat,” said receiver Kelvin Harmon. “I guess we kind of slept on them a little bit.”
With just under six minutes to go until halftime, State trailed Marshall, 13-3.
The Pack erupted for 20 points in five minutes, 10 seconds, taking a 23-20 lead into halftime. A second-half shutout helped State pull away to a 37-20 victory.
“I thought our adjustments were solid in the second half,” said head coach Dave Doeren. “It was a good football game, and I’m proud of the way we finished it.”
Quarterback Ryan Finley completed 29 of 36 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns, and Harmon topped 100 yards for the second straight week. Harmon had nine catches for 121 yards and scored on a 34-yard pass just before halftime. At times, he looked unguardable.
“Yeah,” Harmon agreed. “I feel like that on every down.”
It looked like State and Marshall would spend the evening in an offensive shootout. Marshall receiver Tyre Brady set a Carter-Finley Stadium record with 248 receiving yards, including a 75-yard touchdown.
“I thought he was an outstanding player and obviously we didn’t defend him well in the first half,” Doeren said.
State’s receivers were up to the challenge, in part because of their willingness to fight for every yard. On several occasions, Wolfpack receivers battled through tackle attempts to add yardage.
“In our room, we wanted to have 100 yards after the catch (this week),” said Stephen Louis, who finished with five catches for 73 yards and a score. “Because last week, we were catching the ball and just going down. So the coaches made it a huge emphasis this week. We’ve been practicing all week, after catching the ball, just making a move and going two lines extra just to simulate the game.”
While State receivers fought for yards after the catch, the Wolfpack defense tightened up to shut down Brady and the Marshall offense after halftime. After the Herd gained 337 yards in the first half, they managed just 114 in the second.
“We’ve got to start off as fast as we finish,” said Bradley Chubb, who had three tackles for loss and his first sack of the season. “We had a great second half, and we need to build on that and start off strong like we did to end. It’s definitely momentum going into the next game. We all came together and did what we were supposed to do. Sometimes we had guys try to do too much, try to make plays that the defense didn’t need to make. Everybody just took a deep breath, and we all did our job and whatever we needed to do.”