Missed extra point dooms East Carolina in devastating 21-20 loss to No. 13 NC State

·3 min read

East Carolina was on the verge of a huge upset over in-state rival No. 13 NC State, but the Pirates came up short in devastating fashion as the Wolfpack eked out a 21-20 road win.

ECU fell behind 21-7 at halftime but clawed its way back thanks to two goal line stands and an interception of Devin Leary, NC State’s star quarterback.

Following a 13-play, 79-yard scoring drive that cut NC State’s lead to 21-14, the ECU defense forced an NC State fumble at the goal line on the ensuing drive. And on the next NC State drive, the Pirates stuffed them with a ferocious stop on fourth-and-goal from the 1.

The East Carolina offense was unable to take advantage of the defense’s clutch stops — so the defense went ahead and made another big play. This time, Jireh Wilson picked off Leary and returned it to the NC State 27-yard line.

Four plays later, Rahjai Davis scored what looked like the game-tying touchdown with 2:58 to play. With the score now 21-20, all ECU needed was an extra point to tie the game. That’s when disaster struck as Owen Daffer hooked the PAT try.

Daffer, a first-team all-conference selection last season, would get another shot. NC State’s offense quickly went three-and-out, giving the ball back to Holton Ahlers and the ECU offense.

Ahlers completed two passes, including a 37-yarder, and then took off for a 9-yard run to set up another chance for Daffer. This time, he had the chance to be the hero.

Daffer, who made 19 of his 23 field goal tries last fall, pushed the 41-try to the right, allowing the Wolfpack, improbably, to hang on.

After offseason hype, NC State lucky to be 1-0

NC State went 9-3 last year with its two ACC losses coming by a combined four points. And with so much talent back on both sides of the ball, NC State was hyped up as an under the radar College Football Playoff contender throughout the offseason.

At the same time, it seemed pretty clear that facing an ascending rival like ECU on the road to open the season was going to be a big challenge. That certainly turned out to be the case, and NC State was lucky to escape with a victory.

NC State showed a lot of that promise as it built that 21-7 lead, but was nearly doomed by its inability to finish in the red zone. East Carolina's defense deserves plenty of credit for forcing a fumble inside the 5 and getting that clutch fourth-down stop, but the Wolfpack has plenty of things to clean up.

Leary needs to be better too. He was just 17-of-33 for 211 yards and threw that potentially costly interception. And because of those two failures at the goal line, NC State's offense scored only 14 points (one of the Wolfpack's touchdowns came via a blocked punt return).

NC State will host Charleston Southern next week, so Dave Doeren's team will have the chance to work on things before Texas Tech visits on Sept. 17 and ACC play opens on the road against Clemson on Oct. 1.

East Carolina's Keaton Mitchell (2) is wrapped up by North Carolina State's Travali Price (58), Drake Thomas (32) and Tanner Ingle (10) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Greenville, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
East Carolina's Keaton Mitchell (2) is wrapped up by North Carolina State's Travali Price (58), Drake Thomas (32) and Tanner Ingle (10) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Greenville, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)