NC State, Meyers fight off pain, fatigue to hold off James Madison

The Wolfpack overcome the heat and a game Dukes squad to earn a 24-13 win

North Carolina State's Jakobi Meyers (11) runs the ball against James Madison during the first half an NCAA college football game in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

RALEIGH — NC State’s offense took the field with 6:55 remaining in the game, clinging to a four-point lead. The Wolfpack hadn’t scored since late in the first half and had surrendered the momentum to James Madison, an FCS power looking for the upset at Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday.

State needed a time-consuming drive that resulted in points to salt away the game, and the Pack delivered exactly that.

Eleven plays and nearly six minutes later, Reggie Gallaspy ran six yards for a touchdown that gave the Wolfpack a 24-13 win over the Dukes. Then the players headed to the locker room to hydrate after a tough game in brutal heat.

“It was a hot one out there,” Dave Doeren said afterward. “A lot of our players are getting IVs right now.”

State was able to put fatigue aside to deliver when the game was on the line, however.

“I thought our stamina in the fourth quarter with the drive we put together at the end on offense was critical,” Doeren said.

While Gallaspy ran four times for 25 yards on the 84-yard drive, the Pack also turned to a pair of freshman running backs to give him a break. Ricky Person and Trent Pennix each got a pair of carries.

State had three third downs on the drive, and each time, quarterback Ryan Finley abandoned the run to throw for the first.

“That’s kind of how our offense operates,” he said. “Long drives. Ball protection, but you’ve got to convert on third down.”

Two of the passes went to the star of the day — wide receiver Jakobi Meyers. With Stephen Louis out with an injury and Kelvin Harmon managing just four catches for 33 yards on 10 targets, the workload fell to Meyers, who was hobbling on an injured ankle for much of the second half.

“Someone rolled up on it,” he said.

Still, Meyers endured the pain for a career day. He ended up with 14 catches, one shy of Jaylen Samuels’ single-game record, and 161 yards.

“The team is like my family,” he said. “So I knew I had to do everything I could to hold my family up and keep my family together. We couldn’t lose the first one.”

A little fatigue and a balky ankle weren’t going to stop Meyers.

“If my mom was in the house and she needed me to do something, regardless of if I’m hurt or on crutches, I’m going to get it done,” he said.

A pair of unsung pass catchers stepped up earlier in the game to help give Meyers support. Former walk-on Thayer Thomas caught a 16-yard pass from Finley to give State its first touchdown of the season and first lead of the game.

C.J. Riley added an acrobatic 14-yard touchdown catch to extend State’s lead to 17-7.

“It was a heck of a catch,” Finley said. “I just gave him a shot out there. He’s a tall guy and went and got it.”

But when it was winning time, Finley went to Meyers. A 39-yard catch on third and 9 moved the ball past midfield. A 10-yard grab on third and 9 took the Pack into the red zone.

“Jakobi really played his heart out today,” Finley said. “He made a lot of tough grabs. He tells me just put it in his area code, and he’ll get it.”

His heroics on Saturday helped NC State fight off a potential upset.