Kicking woes doom East Carolina Pirates’ upset bid, as No. 13 NC State Wolfpack’s road win

GREENVILLE, NC — No. 13 North Carolina State topped East Carolina 21-20 on Saturday after Pirates kicker Owen Daffer missed an extra point with 2:58 left and a 41-yard field goal with 5 seconds to go.

The Pirates (0-1) were in position to hand the Wolfpack a surprising loss when they got the ball back late down 21-20, not to mention offer Daffer a shot at redemption after he pulled the tying PAT wide left after Rahjai Harris’ short touchdown run.

Holton Ahlers’ keeper set Daffer up with a makeable field goal in the final seconds, but he missed this one wide right to stun a once-rowdy crowd and leave many fans putting their hands on their heads in disbelief.

The Wolfpack (1-0) celebrated the miss, with Shyheim Battle emphatically waving that the kick was no good while coach Dave Doeren pumped his right fist.

“Give East Carolina credit. We were up, and those kids fought,” Doeren said. “They deserve a lot of credit for that.”

Still, the moment appeared to be more about relief than jubilation for a team that had a long list of troubles in its latest bumpy trip to Greenville.

This time, at least, it all came in a win.

Devin Leary, the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, threw for 211 yards and a touchdown, but he had a costly interception with about 5 minutes left that set up East Carolina’s late touchdown drive. The Wolfpack also came up empty on six goal-line plays in the fourth quarter, first with a goal-line fumble by Jordan Houston and then with talented youngster Demie Sumo-Karngbaye getting stuffed four straight times to end another drive.

In fact, the difference in this game — Duffer’s misses aside — came on a blocked punt by Jasiah Provillon deep in ECU’s end that Sean Brown recovered in the end zone late in the first quarter.

Sumo-Karngbaye ran for 79 yards and a score to lead the Wolfpack’s ground game, offering a physical and thud-delivering presence.

Ahlers threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns to lead East Carolina, one going to CJ Johnson and the other going to Shane Calhoun.

As tough as it may have been to secure, the win keeps NC State on track to make a big leap in Doeren’s 10th season. From Leary’s presence for a team regarded as a top ACC contender to the program matching its highest-ever preseason ranking in the Associated Press poll, the Wolfpack have been a team making headlines this summer, and a nonconference loss would have been damaging.

“There’s a lot to look at on film,” Doeren said. “A lot to improve on. But the one thing I can’t change is the record. We’re 1-0. It’s good to get a W today.”

At the same time, NC State’s lack of sharpness in this one could cost the Wolfpack a bit with voters for the next AP Top 25. NC State will take on Charleston Southern next Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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