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Virginia drops ACC road game to NC State, 35-21

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Hoos can’t contain Ryan Finley as they drop to 1-1 in conference.

Virginia v North Carolina State Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

The N.C. State Wolfpack were the toughest test the Hoos had faced so far this season, and Virginia was unable to get enough going offensively to pull off a road upset as they fell 35-21 in Raleigh. Virginia is now 3-2 on the season, and fell to 1-1 in the ACC.

NC State’s defense held the Virginia running game in check, only allowing 93 yards on the ground. Bryce Perkins went 20-for-35 for 258 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions. Olamide Zaccheaus had himself a solid day with 109 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Virginia only rushed for 93 yards and amassed 351 yards of offense.

Ryan Finley, one of the best quarterbacks in the league, finished with 257 yards, went 22-for-32, and connected for three touchdowns. The State offense racked up 433 yards, including a career high 108 yards on the ground from Ricky Person.

Finley got off to a hot start, connecting on his first three pass attempts for a combined 52 attempts to get the Wolfpack down to the Virginia 23-yard line. Two short runs by Reggie Gallaspy set up a 3rd-and-4 for NC State, but Darrius Bratton broke up the pass and NCSU had to settle for the field goal and the 3-0 lead.

Hasise Dubois picked up a first down for the Hoos on their first drive, but a rush by Ellis lost a yard, a pass fell incomplete, and a designed run by Perkins was sniffed out which led to a punt from Lester Coleman. It looked as though Bryce Hall had picked off a pass from Finley, but the play wasn’t reviewed. The Virginia defense held strong—highlighted by a big tackle by Aaron Faumui and a pass break up by Juan Thornhill—and State punted back to the Hoos.

Their second offensive series was much more successful than the first as the Cavaliers went 67 yards in eight plays for a touchdown. Things looked bleak as the Hoos faced a 3rd-and-11 from their own 32-yard line, but Dubois battled through tough coverage to haul in a 23 yard catch and get the first to keep the drive going. Virginia got stuffed on third down inside the State 40-yard line, but Coach Mendenhall decided to go for it and picked up the needed yard. On the next play, Perkins connected with Zaccheaus for a 35-yard strike and the 7-3 lead with 2:51 left in the first quarter.

NC State answered with a 13-play, 75-yard drive capped off with an Emeka Emezi touchdown reception to put the Wolfpack up 10-7. Finley was 4-for-4 for 50 yards on the drive, and Emezi had to battle Brenton Nelson for the TD reception in the end zone.

Joe Reed returned the kickoff to the Virginia 48-yard line, but the Hoos were unable to get anything going and punted back to the Wolfpack. Once again, the defense held their own, breaking up a pass on 3rd-and-15 to stop a seven play, 38-yard drive for the Wolfpack. Tavares Kelly lost a yard on the punt return as the State defender got there as the ball did, and Zaccheaus picked up a couple first downs for the Hoos. Dropped passes by Joe Reed and Evan Butts hampered Virginia, and the Cavaliers punted back to State.

The Wolfpack got the running game going on the next drive with Ricky Person rattling off runs of 12, 16, and 27 yards on back-to-back-to-back carries. NC State fumbled the ball on 4th-and-inches, but the referees determined that the fumble somehow found its way back to Finley beyond the yard to gain, despite Finley never going beyond the yard to gain. Two plays later, Finley found Cary Angeline in the end zone for a touchdown and the 17-7 lead with :52 left in the half.

Virginia tried to push the ball before the half, but Perkins forced one into Dubois that was picked off by Nick McCloud at the Virginia 48. State maximized the time left, their timeouts, and the sideline to get close enough for a field goal before the half to make it 20-7.

Finley went 16-for-24 for 180 yards and two touchdowns in the first half as the Wolfpack rattled off 288 yards.

The Hoos got the ball to start in the second half, but went three-and-out after the offensive line couldn’t give Perkins any room to operate. A big punt from Coleman pinned the Wolfpack to their own 24-yard line. NC State marched down the field, using a gift pass interference call from the refs on 3rd-and-9 to keep the drive alive and scored a touchdown to make it 27-7.

Virginia got a much needed drive as the Hoos went 82 yards in nine plays as Perkins found Zaccheaus on a broken play for the touchdown. Dubois had another big reception for a first down on the drive, and Zaccheaus rattled off a 25-yard run to keep things moving. On the touchdown, Perkins was pressured as the pocket collapsed, but he stepped forward, moved to his left, and found a wide-open OZ for the score.

NC State was unable to get anything going on their next offensive possession, even though Zane Zandier was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct for jumping on the pile. The Wolfpack punted, and the Hoos worked to the Virginia 40-yard line as the third quarter came to a close.

On the next drive, Virginia went 61 yards in eight plays, but failed to convert on 4th-and-4 at the NC State 21-yard line. NC State got the benefit of another third down pass interference call and scored a touchdown three plays later to make it 35-14 (after a two-point conversion) with 7:25 left in the game.

Virginia showed some life with Ellis scoring a rushing touchdown with 3:08 left in the 4th quarter, and the Hoos pulled off a tricky onsides kick formation to regain possession. State got two huge sacks before face mask and interference penalties set Virginia up inside the 10-yard line. Perkins’s pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage, ending up in an interception and the Hoos’ desperate comeback bid fell short.

Next week, Virginia has a bye week. They face Miami in Charlottesville on October 13.