North Carolina State bounced back from a 17-3 halftime deficit and scored twenty-one second half points to defeat Georgia Southern, 24-23.
Wolfpack quarterback Jacoby Brissett, a transfer from Florida, threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
Georgia Southern struck first after running back Matt Breida took a handoff 61 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. NC State followed with a field goal to cut the score to 7-3.
In the second quarter, the Eagles extended their lead to 14 after quarterback Kevin Ellison threw a 29 yard touchdown pass to Kentrellis Showers. All signs were pointing to Georgia Southern pulling off the upset and winning their first game as a member of the Football Bowl Subdivison and Sun Belt Conference.
But the Wolfpack would not go down without a fight.
After Brissett threw an interception early in the game and the offense began to stall, he finally said enough is enough. The transfer led the comeback and threw all three of his touchdowns in the second half and tossed his final one to Matt Dayes with 1:35 left in the game for what proved to be the game-winning score.
NC State played twenty players who are either true freshmen or redshirt freshmen in the win so mistakes were bound to happen. Like the offense, the defense had to settle down. Although they gave up some huge plays, the defense stepped up when it mattered most and made key stops in the second half to secure the win. Georgia Southern had the ball on the one yard line and one more score would have put the Eagles up 17 points in the fourth quarter but the Wolfpack forced a fumble and then drove the ball 99 yards to pull within three. After forcing the Eagles to kick a field goal, the Pack marched down the field and took their first lead of the game, 24-23, after Brissett threw his third touchdown of the game.
All NC State needed was one more stop.
On fourth down, the Eagles’ chances of pulling off the upset was put to rest after safety Jarvis Byrd broke up the pass.
The story of Jarvis Byrd is inspirational. Byrd has returned after undergoing three ACL surgeries during his time in Raleigh. Byrd was granted a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA and even contemplated calling it quits. But his drive to come back to play the game he loves is truly an inspiration and it was fitting that he made the play that sealed the win.
“It was like a dream come true. I can’t even explain it. I second-guessed myself for even coming back. I thought about giving up football,” Byrd said, in between affectionate pats on the head from his teammates on either side of him, “but the passion and the love was still there, so I didn’t want to live with regret.
“So when I made that play, I got to tears, to tell you the truth. It was just so unreal to me to make that play at the end of the game.”
Byrd’s passion and mental fortitude has made a huge impact on his teammates.
“You’ve got players like Jarvis Byrd stepping up, a guy that’s not even supposed to be playing right now, doing everything you can ask plus more. That’s what this team is all about,” Brissett said. “Going into the huddle, everybody’s looking at me but everybody’s looking at each other — just go out there and fight for the man next to you, put it on our shoulders and go out and play the way we’re supposed to play.”
Although it was tough, NC State moves to 1-0 on the season and a win is a win no matter how you attain it.
NC State will face off against Old Dominion this upcoming Saturday at 6 p.m. ET.
*Section Photo credit to Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Ethan Hyman, Associated Press