The hit was big and the roar from the crowd was bigger after N.C. State safety Dravious Wright sacked Troy’s quarterback and forced a fumble during the third quarter of the Wolfpack’s 49-21 win Saturday night.
The only part that wasn’t big was Wright’s reaction. The junior did a standard chest bump with linebacker Jerod Fernandez and then just kind of left the field for the offense to take over.
“I mean, it was a good feeling,” Wright said. “Just hearing (the crowd) and everybody going ‘Ohhhh!'
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“It was a big moment, (but) I didn’t even know how to celebrate.”
While N.C. State’s offense rolled from beginning to end Saturday, the defense was a bit spotty up until Wright’s big hit.
The Trojans hit a pair of big pass plays to receiver Bryan Holmes – one to set up a touchdown in the first quarter and the other a 37-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
With a 57-yard touchdown run by Brandon Burks, the Trojans had cut the Wolfpack’s lead to 35-21 with 9 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Troy’s defense forced a punt on N.C. State’s next possession and the Trojans had the ball on their own 22-yard line down two scores and with 5:19 left in the third quarter.
There was plenty of time to make the game interesting. Instead, Wright made it elementary. On first-and-10, Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers took a shotgun snap at the Troy 17-yard line. Wright came in on a blitz off the right edge untouched. He caught Silvers clean, under his left shoulder, and the force of the blow knocked Silvers’ helmet off.
The helmet rolled back to the 13-yard line and Wright jumped on the ball on the Troy 14.
“It was a huge play and we scored a touchdown right there and that kind of put the game away, in my opinion,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said.
After the sack and fumble, N.C. State ran three plays, with a pass interference penalty setting up Jaylen Samuels for a 3-yard touchdown run.
After the deep passes in the first half, which helped keep Troy within shouting distance at 28-14, Wright said Doeren challenged the defense at halftime.
“Coach said we needed a play on defense, that we hadn’t had one all night, so that was a good feeling to have that big play,” Wright said.
Troy averaged 6.6 yards per play but had only 305 yards of total offense. The Wolfpack defense was especially good on third downs, allowing the Trojans to convert just one of nine.
Doeren said he was disappointed in the big plays but, overall, the defense redeemed itself in the second half.
“We can’t be a defense that gives up big plays,” Doeren said.
Injury notes: Junior cornerback Jack Tocho didn’t play in the second half after hurting his right knee. Doeren said Tocho banged his knee in the first half and it was swollen but he could have returned.
Doeren said Tocho was more upset about how he played in the first half, when he was on the wrong end of Holmes’ two big catches, than anything else.
“I expect him to make those plays,” Doeren said. “I know he’s really mad at himself right now.”
Senior center Quinton Schooley went to the locker room briefly in the second half with cramps, but he is fine, Doeren said.
Junior defensive end Pharoah McKever missed the game with a minor knee injury. Doeren said McKever could have played, but he didn’t practice last week and the coach didn’t want to rush him back.
“He’ll be full speed on practice on Tuesday, and we’ll have him back for the rest of the year,” Doeren said.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio