RALEIGH, N.C. — Devin Leary kept finding the end zone for No. 18 North Carolina State, sometimes with a tough-nosed edge that had him unbothered by would-be tacklers.
“If I've got to get a little gritty, I’m willing to do it,” the quarterback said.
Leary's play was one of several positive signs for the Wolfpack in Saturday’s 55-3 win against Charleston Southern in the team’s first chance to move past the shaky finish from its opener at East Carolina.
Leary tied a program record by accounting for six touchdowns, with four coming through the air. One that stood out was a perfect 24-yard wheel route to Jordan Houston down the left side. The other was a 40-yard strike over the middle to Anthony Smith after he shrugged blitzer Nick Perry off his back.
Leary's two rushing scores included a 12-yard keeper in the first quarter, when the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year bounced off three hard hits before reaching across the goal line for the game's first TD.
Celebrating his 23rd birthday, Leary wrapped up his day by hitting Chris Toudle for a 27-yard TD and a 45-0 lead with 12:48 left in the third.
“That's kind of what he did all through fall camp,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said. “We were really happy with how he was sliding around the pocket and extending plays. I think he kept his eyes downfield and made some things happen.”
The game offered N.C. State (2-0) a chance to regroup from last week's 21-20 win at ECU, earned only when the Pirates missed two late kicks. That game was full of problems after halftime, including coming up scoreless on two drives with a combined six goal-line snaps as well as sputtering to 25 fourth-quarter yards.
That made recent days, along with kickoff against the Buccaneers (0-2) of the Championship Subdivision, a chance to clean up mistakes.
Charleston Southern's top highlight was a 48-yard field goal from Sam Babbush midway through the third quarter, stopping the Wolfpack's shutout bid. Ross Malmgren threw for 111 yards but found himself under repeated pressure. Charleston Southern managed 150 total yards to remain winless all-time against Bowl Subdivision teams.
“What I feel we should've done a better job, what we wanted to do a better job of was just competing," Charleston Southern coach Autry Denson said. “You know when you play a game like this that you have to play perfect, and that's just to give yourself a chance because from a personnel standpoint, you just don't match up. We just didn't do that.”
Charleston Southern: The Buccaneers opened the season by surrendering 52 points at home against Western Carolina. And the Big South Conference program entered this one with an 0-25 mark against Bowl Subdivision opponents, including 0-15 against teams from the Power Five conferences.
N.C. State: The storylines focused on improvements, not whether Doeren's squad would beat a lower-division opponent. Leary and his teammates largely showed that, with the offense cracking the 40-point mark on its first snap after halftime and the defensive front generally overwhelming the Bucs.
Rest and recover
The Wolfpack played without linebacker Payton Wilson, who missed nearly all last season to injury and then exited the ECU win with an apparent shoulder injury. Doeren said Wilson, who was on the sideline, should be OK next week
N.C. State backup quarterback Jack Chambers played against his former team in the third and fourth quarters. The graduate transfer, who played his first four seasons with the Buccanceers, threw for 45 yards, including a 10-yard score to Jalen Coit early in the fourth.
A test run
N.C. State offensive coordinator Tim Beck called plays upstairs in the coaching box instead of on the field. Doeren said the staff wanted to see if it would be easier for Beck to make adjustments by seeing the field and formations up high.
“It wasn't honestly much different so to say,” Leary said. “Every single series, I was getting on the phone with him. We were still talking through everything like we always do. Just a little changeup, but I think it works either way.”
The close call at ECU cost the Wolfpack five spots in the AP Top 25 poll. This is unlikely to have a notable impact.
Charleston Southern: The Buccaneers visit Eastern Kentucky next Saturday.
N.C. State: Texas Tech visits the Wolfpack next Saturday in an ACC-Big 12 matchup.
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