RALEIGH, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Nyheim Hines ran for two touchdowns and Ryan Finley threw for another to help No. 24 North Carolina State beat No. 17 Louisville 39-25 on Thursday night.
Hines ran for 102 yards and had a 48-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter that helped set up a touchdown drive for the Wolfpack (5-1, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Finley threw for 367 yards and a 48-yard score to Kelvin Harmon, part of N.C. State's 520 total yards on a night it never trailed against the Cardinals (4-2, 1-2).
Then there was the Wolfpack's defensive front, which kept the pressure on reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.
"They don't want to be denied what they feel is theirs right now," Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said. "There's no flinch in these guys, I can tell you that."
Jackson ran for his second touchdown to pull the Cardinals to 32-25 with 4:10 left, then got the ball back with a chance to tie it. But linebacker Germaine Pratt picked up a deflected pass and returned it 25 yards - blasting through an attempted tackle by Jackson near the goal line - for a clinching score with 2:52 left.
"I'm really proud of our players and our coaching staff," Doeren said. "What a win. Great football game. Bunch of players on both teams playing hard. When you can play like that in that environment, it was electric. Our student section was the best I've ever seen it tonight, and we'd love for it to be like that every week. They make our team so much better when they do that for us. Thank you to our fans for that."
Defensive end Bradley Chubb agreed.
"It definitely feels good," Chubb said of the crowd support. "The support is amazing. We are just looking to build on that and keep it going."
Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino put much of the blame for the loss on himself.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Petrino said. "I'm not getting it done. I've got to do a better job with our coaches, do a better job with our players and get back on the right track."
The Cardinals didn't do much to slow the Wolfpack to offset some of Jackson's usual brilliance, and that might have all but ended Louisville's title hopes in the league's Atlantic Division. They had already lost at home to reigning national champion Clemson and now find themselves two games back in the standings.
For the Wolfpack, it's the first 3-0 start in ACC play since 2002. And with wins over Florida State and Louisville, the preseason dark horse in the Atlantic Division has beaten two of the teams picked to finish higher in the standings to position itself as the division's likely top challenger to Clemson.
But first, N.C. State visits Pittsburgh on Oct. 14 in a cross-division league matchup.
And Thursday night into Friday morning, the Wolfpack team and fans celebrate a statement win.
"It ranks definitely number one. Most recent win. Big win. Thursday night football. Prime time. That's a great win," Harmon said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.