COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Coach Tom O'Brien's offense is notorious for not giving the fullback position carries. However, that doesn't mean the fullback never touches the ball - former fullback Taylor Gentry carved out a nice role as a receiver out of the backfield, and redshirt sophomore Logan Winkles did the same tonight.
Winkles, who left the last game early with an injury, looked like he was at full-strength and scored the first touchdown of the game with a 25-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter. That marked Winkles' fourth catch of his career - all of which have come this year - and his first collegiate touchdown.
"When I got off the ball, I looked up and the next thing I know, defensive backs are starting to part like the red sea," he remembered. "I'm like, 'well I better turn my head around.' The next thing I know, the ball is coming. I catch the ball and turn around. There's a little, bitty DB right there; I didn't want to hurt him, but I just decided, 'you ain't stopping me from getting in the end zone.'"
"I'm just so happy that Mike decided to throw me the ball, as many times as I run dummy routes and everything like that. For the one time for me to be open and him to actually give it to me like that, I daggone sure congratulated him, too. When he came to celebrate with me, I think I hit him a little hard in the head, but first touchdown catch. I've had a couple receptions before then, but there's nothing like a touchdown reception."
The 6-foot-1, 240-pounder has been coached to look for the ball whenever he's in the game, so he wasn't surprised by getting the chance.
"Coach tells us to always expect the ball, so every time - no matter if I know I'm the dummy route or not - I'm turning my head because there's always that one in a million chance that he's going to throw it to you," he said. "Tonight was that millionth chance.
"Whenever I catch that ball and I see that I'm anywhere near the end zone, there ain't nobody that can stop me. They can try their best, but they ain't going to do it, not when I need to get my first one. My adrenaline was just pumping, and I didn't see anyone stopping me - I just focused straight on that goal-line and just ran right through it."
True sophomore kicker Niklas Sade didn't get off to the best start this year - he started the season 2-for-5 on field goal attempts.
However, he is 5-for-5 over the past five games, and his 43-yarder with 32 seconds left was the Wolfpack's first game-winner since Steven Hauschka in 2007 (vs. Miami in OT).
"I've known all along I can do this, since the beginning of the season, fall camp," he said. "In practice, I make the same kind of kicks. During practice situations, we line up and say, 'this is end of the half kick,' and then the last kick is always the game-winner, so we've run through it."
NC State put a lot on Sade's shoulders by running the ball for two plays after Rashard Smith's 14-yard reception gave NC State a first down at the 31.
"It just showed that [O'Brien] has confidence in me, so that gave me the confidence to go out there. I knew I could make the kick. As long as I stayed with everything, then it would go through.
"It started off a little right, but I had a feeling and I kept watching it."
Controlling Their Destiny
If the Pack can win every game remaining on the slate, they will find themselves in Charlotte playing for the ACC Championship.
"It definitely means a lot," cornerback David Amerson said. "The goal is to get the ACC Championship and, right now, we control our own destiny, so we're just taking it one game at a time. We're glad to have this victory.
"You can't ask for nothing else. That's what we work for all season."
The win also broke a 16-game losing streak against Atlantic division opponents that predated O'Brien. NC State is now 3-19 in road games against division rivals, and this was their first since a 2005 victory at Florida State.
However, the Pack doesn't want to rest on this victory. Rival North Carolina, although its not a division opponent awaits, and the team will turn their attention towards the Tar Heels on Sunday.
"[We'll enjoy the win] until Sunday," Winkles said. "We always come out on Sunday practice, and whenever we walk back through the tunnel, everything is over with and we're focused on the next game.
"We set ourselves up good with Florida State, put ourselves back in the race with it. With this win here, we have to go beat UNC. All it is, is just the next game. That is the next step on the ladder - we're going step-by-step. It puts a lot of momentum in the positive way that we need to go."
"After tomorrow, we have to forget about it and move on to the next game," Amerson said. "You can't live in victory. [The UNC game] is big - for our school, for us as a team and for the whole community. This game coming up is big."
The Pickoff Artist Strikes Again
Amerson set the NC State career record with his 17th interception in the second quarter with his fourth of the year. He returned the pick for a touchdown, but it was called back for a penalty.
"It hurt my heart, that would've been my first touchdown of the season and that's something I've been wanting to get, but it's all right, as long as we got the victory.
"I saw the quarterback, he had an angle on me and I was kind of tired, so I knew I wasn't really going to outrun him, so I cut back and it was home free from there."
Maryland had run the play that Amerson turned into a miscue once before, so when he recognized it for a second time, he took a chance.
"They had run the play once and I was kind of conservative, I just made the tackle, but I told myself, 'if they run it again, I'm going to jump it.' Sure enough, a couple of possessions later, they ran it and it just worked out for me."