RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Devin Leary threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as North Carolina State geared up for a key Atlantic Coast Conference clash by beating Furman 45-7 on Saturday night.
Zonovan Knight ran for 104 yards and a touchdown on 11 first-half carries for the Wolfpack (2-1), which braces for a visit from Clemson to open its league schedule next week.
Leary completed 23 of 29 passes for 259 yards, all in the first half as the Wolfpack opened a 38-0 lead by halftime.
“The rhythm was better,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said. “There was a lot more plays where you could see 11 guys doing what they were supposed to do. … It’s good to get a rhythm. It’s good to fix things we need to fix.”
It was a strong bounce-back performance for NC State after dropping a road decision to Mississippi State a week earlier.
“I thought we responded well and that’s what I was looking for,” Doeren said.
Knight scored on a 1-yard run to open the scoring, churning out 56 rushing yards of the 69 yards on the eight-play drive.
Leary’s touchdown passes went to Dylan Parham for 4 yards, Anthony Smith for 42 yards and Thayer Thomas for 12 yards – all in the Wolfpack’s 28-point second quarter. He also ran for a 7-yard scoring during the quarter.
“It got away from us there in the second quarter,” Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. “They’re as good as I thought they were.”
Furman (2-1) had one first down in the first half, with 49 yards of total offense.
“We just couldn’t block them,” Hendrix said.
The Paladins’ best scoring chance of the half came after recovering a fumble on N.C. State’s first possession, but Timmy Bleekrode missed on a 48-yard field-goal attempt.
Furman quarterback Hamp Sisson finished 8-for-19 for 86 yards with a touchdown toss and an interception.
GIVE IT TO HIM AGAIN
Knight’s fumble ended the game’s first possession. The Wolfpack went right back to him anyway, with him touching the ball on five of the eight plays on the ensuing scoring drive.
“It definitely helped my confidence out a lot,” Knight said.
Knight had more than 700 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons, when he was the team’s top rusher. He has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in two games this year, so his teammates figured he’d have the right mindset after his early blunder Saturday.
“He told us on the sideline that wasn’t going to happen again,” Leary said. “He was going to pick us up, pick himself up.”
IN THE END ZONE
Parham, a fifth-year player, scored his first career touchdown on the second-quarter reception.
For Smith and Thomas, their scoring catches marked their first touchdowns of the season.
Thomas has 13 career touchdown receptions, putting him tied for 12th place in school history. His brother, Drake Thomas, co-led the Wolfpack’s defense in tackles with seven stops against Furman.
Furman: The Paladins had been 2-0 for the first time since 2014, but they were saddled with their sixth consecutive loss against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent. The Wolfpack has pinned two of those defeats on Furman.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack seemed well-recovered on defense after losing linebacker Payton Wilson and safety Cyrus Fagan, both starters, to season-ending injuries a week earlier. The Wolfpack has yielded a total of seven points in two home games this year. Furman was 0-for-7 on third-down conversions in the first half.
“We’ve had that next-man up mentality,” N.C. State safety Tyler Baker-Williams said. “Everybody staying ready.”
Furman: Home vs. Mercer on Saturday to open Southern Conference play.
N.C. State: Home vs. Clemson on Saturday in its ACC opener.