NC State’s historic comeback against North Carolina adds a dramatic chapter to in-state rivalry

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RALEIGH, NC – Emeka Emezzi’s final catch at Carter-Finley Stadium will be one that will never be forgotten.

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Playing in his final home game as a fifth-year senior, Emezy took his second touchdown catch in the span of 26 seconds—a 24-yard strike from quarterback Devin Leary—with two minutes remaining and safe to close the deficit to nine points. No. 24 to finish North Carolina State’s wild 34-30 win against North Carolina.

He was still in moments of shock after the game.


“What just happened, honestly,” said all-time leader of NC State at the reception, Emezi. “It doesn’t feel real. I really just thank God. You can’t script it. You can’t imagine it. It’s a blessing.”

Carter-Finley Stadium fans stormed the ground for the second time this season.

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“What a game,” said coach Dave Doren after the win. “So you play until the last second runs out of clock.”

The Tar Heels, who had extended their three-game winning streak over NC State, led 30-21 with a 2:12 in the game after a 50-yard field goal, but two 64-yard passes from Leary to the Emmys. Cut the score to 30-28 with 1:35 to play after plays.

Kicker Chris Dunn recovers his own onside kick to set up NC State’s game-winning drive. The win keeps the Wolfpack (9-3, 6-2) alive for a spot in the ACC title game they need to lose Wake Forest to Boston College on Saturday. They end the regular season undefeated at home for the first time since 1986. They could win 10 games for the second time in the program’s history.

UNC dropped 6-6 on the season.

“The goal is the ACC Championship, so we’re going to be Boston College fans tomorrow,” Doreen said.

Leary, who finished with four touchdown passes and 247 yards, set the school’s single-season record for passing touchdown passes with 35 passing Phillip Rivers. He was two short of the record with less than two minutes left in the game.

“As soon as we fixed the kick I knew we were going to score, somehow, somehow,” Leary said.

Normally, defense has come to the rescue this season, but this time, offense saved the day.

NC State, playing without several starters, including defensive backs Devan Boykin and Tyler Baker-Williams—both denied game time—allowed UNC quarterback Sam Howell a season-high 297 rushing yards and three total touchdowns.

Howell led the Tar Heels to 24 unanswered points in the first quarter after trailing 14-0 with touchdown runs of 4 and 12 yards and a 17-yard pass to Justin Olsen.

Wolfpack scored the first 14 points of the game on a punt block recovered by CJ Riley in the end zone and scored a 9-yard pass from Devin Leary to Trent Penix. They would not score again until late in the third quarter.

David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA Today Network covering NC State and Duke Athletics. He can be reached at [email protected], 828-231-1747 or on Twitter at @daveth89.

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