Ryan Finley looked every bit like the first round pick he is projected to be in the 2019 NFL Draft. The senior threw for 316 yards and a career-high four touchdowns, as he led the Wolfpack (7-3) to a 52-10 win over Louisville (2-9).
Coming off the firing of former head coach Bobby Petrino last Sunday, Louisville did come out with a lot of energy early in the game. The Cardinals forced a quick three-and-out on defense, and starting quarterback Malik Cunningham led them on a scoring drive afterwards. The Cards struck first on a 32-yard field goal from Blanton Creque.
However, NC State quickly gathered their bearings and scored 45 unanswered points. Ryan Finley connected on his first touchdown pass on the next drive, finding Kelvin Harmon down the right sideline on a 25-yard throw.
In the second quarter, Chris Dunn hit a 23-yard field goal for NC State, then Reggie Gallaspy scored his first of three touchdowns on a one-yard run.
Louisville had chances to add points in the second quarter. They had two drives inside NC State territory. The first drive saw three penalties push them back, and eventually miss a field goal. Louisville made it to the NC State 42 on their final drive of the half, but ran out of time before they could attempt a field goal.
The Louisville offense continued to struggle with mistake after mistake in the second half. Louisville’s first drive ended on a lost fumble from Malik Cunningham, leading directly to an NC State touchdown (an 18-yard run up the middle by Gallaspy). Jawon Pass was subbed into the game after Cunningham couldn’t get Louisville’s offense going, but couldn’t find any success either.
NC State scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter, both on touchdown throws from Ryan Finley. The senior found Emeka Emezie on a 12-yard touchdown throw, then hit a six-yard pass to Gallaspy.
Meanwhile, Louisville continued to struggle. Jawon Pass had a pair of solid completions to Jaylen Smith, but threw an interception to NC State’s Jarius Morehead that thwarted another potential scoring drive. NC State would parlay that into a 13-play, 99-yard drive that ended in Finley throwing his fourth touchdown pass to Jakobi Meyers.
Malik Cunningham re-entered the game at quarterback in the fourth quarter, and scored Louisville’s only touchdown on a 20-yard run. NC State crossed the 50-point threshold with a one-yard touchdown run from Blake Bodine. It is the sixth time this season that Louisville has allowed 50+ points, and fifth in the last six games.
Louisville’s final drive saw Malik Cunningham exit with an injury, forcing Jawon Pass back in the game. Pass led them down to the one-yard line with some strong running from Jeremy Smith, but fell short on the one-yard line as time expired.
Ryan Finley finished with 316 passing yards and a career high four touchdowns for NC State. Reggie Gallaspy had 84 total yards (73 rushing, 11 receiving) and scored three touchdowns, two on the ground and one receiving. Kelvin Harmon led the Wolfpack with seven catches for 100 yards and one touchdown. Jakobi Meyers (seven catches, 96 yards, one touchdown) and Emeka Emezie (seven catches, 72 yards, one touchdown) were not far behind him in the receiving category.
For Louisville, the offense’s inconsistency to sustain drives continued. Malik Cunningham made the start at quarterback after Jawon Pass — along with receiver Devante Peete and defensive lineman Michael Boykin — were suspended. Pass was suspended for the first quarter, but sat out the first half and finished the game after Malik Cunningham left with an injury. Peete and Boykin were suspended for the game (author’s note: Boykin has since tweeted about the suspension).
The Cardinals rushed for a season-high 254 yards, led by quarterback Malik Cunningham (14 carries, 100 yards, one touchdown). Cunningham remains Louisville’s leading rusher heading into their season finale, and is the only runner with a 100-yard game on the team.
Louisville couldn’t find a rhythm in the passing game, finishing 13-of-25 as a team for 157 yards and an interception against an NC State defense that was the only FBS team allowing 300+ yards per game, entering the contest.
Up next, Louisville will close out its 100th season with a night game against Kentucky. The 31st Governor’s Cup game starts at 7 p.m., and it will be Louisville’s 1,000th game in the program’s history (per stat guru Kelly Dickey).