Morris, defense leader no. 21 NC State past No. 20 Wake Forest :: WRALSportsFan.com

Morris, defense leader no. 21 NC State past No. 20 Wake Forest :: WRALSportsFan.com

Wake Forest Demon Deacons20Wake Forest Demon Deacons 21
NC State Wolfpack21NC State Wolfpack 30
The final

— MJ Morris gave No. 21 North Carolina State the spark it needed.

The first-year passer threw three touchdowns as the Wolfpack defense picked off Sam Hartman three times to beat No. 20 Wake Forest 30-21 on Saturday night. He threw for 210 yards and became the first true freshman in more than 22 years to start for the Wolfpack (7-2, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), following his three-TD effort in last week’s homecoming game against Virginia Tech.

However, this performance came against a ranked in-state foe with a veteran star quarterback in Hartman leading a high-scoring offense.

“He’s way ahead of where we thought he would be at this point in his career,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said of Morris.

Morris hit Darryl Jones for two of his touchdowns and Keyon Lesane for another to lead the offense. He also directed a key late drive that took four minutes off the clock and set up Christopher Dunn with a 25-yard field goal to make it a two-possession game with 2:54 left. And it was another boost for a team that lost preseason ACC Player of the Year Devin Leary at quarterback to a season-ending injury less than a month ago.

“That’s one of the things Coach Doeren told me last week, ‘Just get that juice going because the whole team is going to revolve around you,'” Morris said.

Meanwhile, the Wolfpack’s veteran defense chased Hartman for four sacks and plenty of pressure up front. The unit also got an early boost by getting up when the Demon Deacons went first and goal at the 1-yard line, forcing three consecutive negative yardage plays followed by a missed field goal.

It wasn’t the kind of performance Dave Clawson wanted from his Demon Deacons (6-3, 2-3), who lost to Louisville last week while committing eight turnovers — six by Hartman in the third quarter alone. Hartman threw for 397 yards and connected with Taylor Morin and AT Perry for a touchdown in this one, while Perry had 12 catches for 159 yards.

But the Demon Deacons managed just 17 yards rushing to put it all on Hartman’s right arm.

“It’s a good football team, it’s a tough environment, it’s a really good old veteran defense,” Clawson said of the Wolfpack. “They started as a freshman quarterback, but the rest of that unit are good players. They have a veteran O-line, they have a veteran offensive skill set. He played well, but they didn’t ask him to win the game.”


Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons’ formula for success under Clawson is avoiding self-inflicted mistakes. They now have 11 turnovers in two games, and in this one they had nine penalties for 74 yards.

NC State: NC State’s last two home games have featured comebacks from double-digit halftime deficits, first a 17-3 rout against Florida State and then last week’s rally from a 21-3 hole against Virginia Tech. No need to this time, not with Morris looking calm and mobile all night as he followed eventual longtime NFL quarterback Philip Rivers as the program’s last true new QB starter.


NC State is showing the kind of resilience that will surely keep the Wolfpack in the AP Top 25, while Wake Forest could fall slightly after another off-target performance.


NC State has won 16 consecutive home games to tie the program record set from 1972-75 under Lou Holtz.


Things got rough late on, with the teams bantering during and after the game as they left the field. That included Wake Forest defensive back Caelen Carson removing his helmet while exchanging words with a Wolfpack player, leading to Carson being flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.

There was also the sight of Wolfpack defensive tackle Cory Durden waving at Wake Forest several times during that exchange and as some players were separated afterward.

The fight didn’t carry over into the tunnels or locker rooms. North Carolina State Stadium has separate tunnels for each team.

“We’ve done some things I’m not proud of and I’m sure Dave feels the same way about his football team,” Clawson said, adding, “I’m not pointing fingers. I’m responsible for what our guys did and I’m ashamed of some of the things we did. And we’ll deal with that tomorrow.”


Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons host No. 17 North Carolina next Saturday for their second straight matchup against a nationally ranked ACC team.

NC State: The Wolfpack’s home finale comes next Saturday with a visit from Boston College.


Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap


AP College Football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap_top25. Sign up for AP’s college football newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/mrxhe6f2

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