NC State hands Wake Forest first loss in convincing fashion

Ryan Finley, Matt Dayes team up for huge offensive outing against previously undefeated Demon Deacons.

RALEIGH — Ryan Finley threw for three touchdowns as NC State defeated previously unbeaten Wake Forest, 33-16, giving the Wolfpack a victory in its ACC opener Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium.Two of Finley’s touchdown tosses went to freshman receiver Kelvin Harmon, who put together a breakout performance. After showing explosiveness in the Pack’s offseason camp, Harmon came up huge in his first ACC appearance.”That was our game plan: Take shots and let our guys make plays,” Finley said. “That’s what we did. We had guys make a lot of big plays.”The passing game wasn’t the only part of the NC State offense surging. Matt Dayes gained 125 rushing yards on 24 carries with a touchdown. For his career, Dayes will finish with 459 total yards and six touchdowns against the Deacons after Saturday’s performance.Despite NC State trouncing Wake over the last two years, the Pack knew this year’s Deacs team was improved. Rather than looking past Wake, State came away with its fifth consecutive victory in the rivalry in Raleigh.”We wanted to come out in the first ACC game of the year,” Jaylen Samuels said. “They came in 4-0 so we knew that was a good team.”NC State (3-1, 1-0 ACC) led 17-0 less than 14 minutes into the game on the way to a 23-9 halftime advantage. Mike Weaver had field goals of 34, 29 and 41 yards for the visiting Demon Deacons (4-1, 1-1).Wake Forest closed within 26-16 late in the third quarter when quarterback John Wolford threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tabari Hines. Harmon’s second touchdown came on a seven-yard scoring pass with 5:53 left in the game.Prior to Saturday’s game, Finley called NC State’s game against Wake Forest a “must-win game.” With his first 300-yard passing and second three-touchdown game against the Deacs, it was clear he played his best game against the in-state opponent.Next Saturday, NC State hosts Notre Dame in Carter-Finley before traveling to Clemson and Louisville in consecutive weeks. While getting to 1-0 was a necessity, coming away with a win in the coming weeks is not a certainty.