NC State players, coach talk about forcing turnovers in key road win over Virginia

ACC Football

North Carolina State’s Zonavan Knight (7) is lifted by teammate Ikem Ekwonu after scoring a touchdown against Virginia during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va. (Erin Edgerton/The Daily Progress via AP)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WNCN) — N.C. State forced four Virginia turnovers including a pick-six in winning on the road for the second straight week 38-21 over the Cavaliers.

The Wolfpack (3-1, 3-1 in the ACC) jumped out to an early 24-0 lead but had to depend on
some key defensive plays late in the game to hold off Virginia.

“I’m really proud of the effort of our guys,” said N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren. “I look forward to coming back to Raleigh and having some games back in our hometown.”

The Wolfpack has played three straight road games and will host Duke Saturday at 3:30 at Carter-Finley Stadium.

For awhile it looked as if the visiting Pack would cruise to victory over the Wahoos. Devin Leary threw two, first quarter touchdown passes and “Bam” Knight scored on a 35-yard run as N.C. State at one point led 24-0.

But Virginia (1-2, 1-2 in the ACC) clawed back into the game behind backup quarterback Lindell Stone, who threw three touchdown passes.

The Cavaliers pulled to within 24-14 heading into the fourth quarter when the Wolfpack defense came up with the play of the game.

The Pack had a goal-line stand earlier in the contest and got a pick-six from 330 pound defensive tackle Alim McNeill early in the fourth quarter.

The former Sanderson High School star said he saw it coming.

“It was crazy,” laughed McNeill. “I had told coach (Tony) Gibson in the second quarter right before
halftime I said I’m going to catch a pick-six. I was just talking crazing and that’s exactly what happened. I was like ‘is this really what happened?'”

Yep, it really happened. And McNeill’s takeaway earned him a “dog bone.” The Wolfpack coaching staff for the first time awarded players a dog bone that they would sign after coming up with turnovers.

“It was just one of those creative moments we have as a staff,” Doeren explained. “Just trying to find
new innovative ways to motivate these young men. I don’t know whose brilliant idea it was. We’re not just meathead football coaches.”

The players seemed to like the new tradition.

“Ah, we just hold it up,” said N.C. State sophomore safety Jakeen Harris when handed the dog bone. “We get behind the player who caused the turnover and celebrate with them.”

But there’s one thing you don’t do with the dog bone during this COVID-19 time.

“You can’t put it in your mouth,” laughed Harris.

Instead the Wolfpack will be just fine with taking a bite out of the Cavaliers and returning home after a very successful three-game road swing.

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