A promising, celebratory night turns into a complete disaster for N.C. State

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Wake Forest's Chuck Wade Jr. celebrates after defeating North Carolina State in an NCAA college football game in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

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Sports Writer

Thursday, November 8, 2018

RALEIGH — From the honoring of Bradley Chubb, back in town at the midway point of his rookie season in the NFL, to the senior night ceremonies pregame, to the redemption of Emeka Emezie, who scored a touchdown after a goal line fumble to lose the same game last year, to taking the next step toward a 10-win regular season, there were enough potential positive storylines for N.C. State on Thursday night against Wake Forest to make even the most cautious Wolfpack fan smile. 

But, of all the options, despite the Deacons (5-5, 2-4) entering the game with a losing record and a sophomore quarterback in Jamie Newman starting in his first college game, the storyline at Carter-Finley Stadium, once the dust settled, was complete disaster for N.C. State (6-3, 3-3), its two main goals — running the table at home and finishing the regular season with 10 wins — up in Demon-ic flames.

And the lasting image was Jamie Newman, in his first game, connecting with Jack Freudenthal for a 32-yard touchdown pass with 30 seconds remaining, completing a 27-23 comeback win that no one in the stadium thought could happen until it finally a did, a comeback that could have been extinguished had Ryan Finley, the sixth-year senior and future NFL quarterback, killed the clock to zero on the previous drive. 

Instead, his pass on fourth-and-2 fell incomplete, and Newman, who went from timid to Montana in the span of three quarters, took his own team down the field with no timeouts left, with less than two minutes left, for the game-winning score. 

It was unlikely — like a gangly underdog wobbling around for 11 rounds before summoning the newfound will to deliver a knockout.

It was, N.C. State fans will say, so N.C. State

Last year in Winston-Salem, Dave Doeren’s team lost on a last-minute goal line fumble by receiver Emeka Emezie. This year, Emezie found his own personal redemption, scoring a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to take a 23-13 lead, which would end up being the last time the Wolfpack scored; they entered the red zone five times in all, scoring two touchdowns but settling for three chip-shot field goals by Chris Dunn, including one set up by a clear drop in the end zone by Cary Angeline.

“Honestly, I didn’t even realize how quickly it happened,” said Emezie of the 10-point lead evaporating. “We were up 10 at one point and it just switched to where they were up. It was shocking that that happened.” 

Newman finished with 297 yards passing and three touchdowns, including a score with six minutes left to Greg Dortch that made the score 23-20. The collars tightened for N.C. State with that touchdown, but the game was lost in the first half, in which the Wolfpack entered up, 13-6, outplaying the Deacons but holding only a seven-point lead. 

“I definitely don’t think offensively we were crisp in the first half,” Doeren said. “What was the exact reason for that? I’m not sure. Was it the talk of what they could end up being? ... I’m not sure.” 

Finley ended up throwing the ball 52 times for 374 yards, the last one being a buzzer beater Hail Mary that was intercepted. The Wolfpack ran the ball 27 times and scratched together only 47 yards. The run game has been inconsistent all season, and perhaps played a role in N.C. State’s decision to throw on fourth-and-2 late in the game when a first down would have ended it. 

Along with Emezie’s five catches for 83 yards and a touchdown, Kelvin Harmon had a career-high 15 catches for 134 yards; Jakobi Meyers had 10 for 117 yards. 

But Harmon, a possible first round pick in next year’s NFL draft, wasn’t targeted once in the end zone. 

“I don’t ever ask for the ball,” Harmon said when asked about his lack of red zone looks. “I trust my coaches that they’re going to call the play. I just have to make it.” 

Doeren defended that line of questioning after the game, but Harmon being held out of the end zone was one shortcoming in a sea of equal mistakes that in a night that started with No. 14 N.C. State as a darkhorse darling and ended with it being the same old Wolfpack. 

“Disapointing,” Doeren said. “Very disappointing.”