NC State squeaks past winless Virginia 24-21 on last-second field goal

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Saturday, September 23, 2023
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WTVD) -- NC State quarterback Brennan Armstrong made a triumphant return to his old school, helping the Wolfpack hold off a feisty Virginia squad on Friday night.

But it wasn't easy as the Wolfpack continued its early-season offensive struggles and needed a second-chance, last-second field goal to beat the Cavaliers 24-21.

Armstrong hit freshman wide receiver Kevin Concepcion for a 12-yeard touchdown in the second quarter to open the scoring. The pair later hooked up for a 48-yard touchdown strike in the third quarter.

NC State's Brennan Armstrong uncorks a touchdown pass to Kevin Concepcion for the first score of the game.

But it took a Brayden Narveson 33-yard field goal as time expired to get the Wolfpack out of Charlottesville with the narrow win. Narveson's first attempt from 48 yards was blocked by James Jackson, but he was called for a personal foul after he launched himself off the back of a teammate, moving the ball 15 yards closer.

The Pack's final drive for the winning field goal was necessary after freshman Anthony Colandrea led Virginia on an 11-play, 66-yard drive and hit Malik Washington from 3 yards out to make it 21-19. The Cavaliers, however, were called for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play, and on their 2-point attempt from the 18, Colandrea hit Malachi Fields to tie it up.

Another 15-yard unsportsmanlike call - this one on the freshman quarterback -- forced Virginia to back up 15 yards on the kickoff, and a nice return by Julian Gray set the Wolfpack up at the Virginia 48. Three runs by Armstrong moved the ball to the 30.

Armstrong, who transferred after last season, was booed when he trotted onto the field for the opening series but displayed many of the attributes that made him one of the nation's top quarterbacks two years ago. He struggled in a new system last season and reunited this year with former offensive coordinator Robert Anae.

He finished 15 for 30 for 180 yards, the TDs and an interception, and led the Pack with 64 rushing yards, often trying to punish would-be tacklers and former teammates.

Colandrea started his third straight for the Cavaliers at quarterback in place of injured starter Tony Muskett. He showed flashes of potential, including an 11-yard run and completions of 19, 10, and 12 yards on the tying drive, but also inexperience, throwing a deep ball on the run into quadruple coverage with Virginia trailing 21-13. The pass was tipped and intercepted, the first of his two picks.

NC State running back Michael Allen fends off Virginia linebacker James Jackson on Friday night in Charlottesville.
Mike Caudill

Virginia squandered two good scoring chances, including a 1st-and-goal from the four after Colandrea's 59-yard connection with Washington. Three plays netted just a yard and Will Bettridge kicked a 21-yard field goal. He kicked another from 36 yards after the Cavaliers couldn't convert on 3rd-and-1 from the 19.

Delbert Mimms III's 1-yard run 28 seconds before halftime gave N.C. State a 14-7 lead.

The Wolfpack stopped Virginia's 4th-and-1 try from their own 49 and took advantage, needing seven plays that ended with Armstrong's 12-yard pass to Concepcion to go ahead 7-0 on the opening play of the second quarter.

The Cavaliers tied it on their next possession, driving 75 yards in nine plays. Colandrea finished it with some nifty footwork to escape pressure, then found Washington in the back of the end zone on 3rd-and-goal from the 8 for the points.

The Wolfpack improved to 3-1 overall, 1-0 in the ACC with their third consecutive win in the series. The Cavaliers (0-4, 0-1) are still looking for their first win.

The Wolfpack returns home next Friday night against Louisville. Virginia will play at Boston College next Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed.