Sade's late FG lifts NC State past Richmond 23-21
Pete Thomas didn't want his last pass of the game to be the interception that sent North Carolina State to a stunning loss. Given a second chance, he led the Wolfpack on a drive that helped them breathe a huge sigh of relief.
N.C. State rallied to beat Richmond 23-21 on Saturday night on Niklas Sade's 48-yard field goal with 33 seconds left.
Freshman Bryant Shirreffs accounted for two touchdowns and Thomas was 24 of 31 for 237 yards while helping the Wolfpack (2-0) rally from an 11-point deficit and overcoming the interception he threw with 3:04 left at the Richmond 12 — the team's fourth turnover of the night.
"After that horrible pick I threw ... I just wanted another chance," Thomas said. "The defense gave that to us. On the sidelines, we just believed in each other."
N.C. State forced a punt and got the ball back at its own 21 with 1:59 left.
Thomas led them 48 yards in seven plays, completing 4 of 5 passes during the drive for 31 yards — including a critical 13-yard throw to Rashard Smith at the sideline — before things stalled at the 31.
Sade's kick from the right hash cleared the crossbar with ease.
"I've been there before," said Sade, who kicked a 43-yard winner against Maryland last year. "I was confident, the way I've been practicing ... anywhere they put me on the field, coach knew I could make the field goal."
Michael Strauss moved the Spiders (1-1) downfield in the final seconds, but his deep heave with no time left was batted down by Hakim Jones just short of the goal line.
Strauss finished 29 of 45 for 300 yards with two touchdowns, but the Spiders were shut out in the second half and were denied their fourth victory over an Atlantic Coast Conference team since 2006.
"I think we did enough things to put ourselves in a position to win the football game," Richmond coach Danny Rocco said. "It is never one thing or one play. I think there were a number of different opportunities or plays that could have been made on either side of the football that would have helped secure a victory for us tonight."
Shirreffs — who was forced up to No. 2 on the depth chart after starter Brandon Mitchell broke his foot in the opener — completed all three of his passes, ran 28 yards for an early touchdown and threw a 7-yard TD pass to Matt Dayes as the Wolfpack fell behind 21-10 late in the first half before rallying.
"Any time you can come back and win a football game, it says a lot about the character of your guys," N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said.
N.C. State appeared to wrest control from the Spiders by forcing two fumbles inside Richmond's 20-yard line on consecutive series early in the third quarter.
The Wolfpack turned the first one into a touchdown, but gave the second one right back to the Spiders.
N.C. State defensive end Art Norman pounced on Strauss' fumble at the Richmond 8, and two plays later, Dayes took a screen pass from Shirreffs into the end zone to pull the Wolfpack to 21-20 with 7:09 left in the third.
N.C. State had a prime chance to retake the lead when Norman forced another fumble from Strauss deep in Spiders territory, but Shirreffs fumbled it right back at the Richmond 4.
Richmond — which beat Duke three times between 2006-11 — showed no fear against a Wolfpack team that was coming off a 40-14 beating of Louisiana Tech in Doeren's debut.
The Spiders scored touchdowns on three straight possessions in the first half.
Strauss threw TD passes of 3 yards to Sam Roller and 14 yards to Stephen Barnette on consecutive series, before Jacobi Green put Richmond up 21-10 with a 7-yard touchdown run with 1:33 before the break.
Sade's second field goal of the half started the comeback and pulled the Wolfpack to 21-13 with 10 seconds left.
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