CHARLOTTE — NC State senior defensive end Bradley Chubb never envisioned the kind of loss the Wolfpack suffered Saturday against South Carolina.
Chubb turned down the chance to play in the NFL in what still will be a wise decision, but he was admittedly downcast after NCSU lost 35-28 to South Carolina in the Belk College Kickoff at Bank of America Stadium. The way NC State loss was summed up as agonizing, creating another emotional scenario where the players have to pick themselves up.
Chubb knows the outside “noise” will turn from full of praise to swirling negatively. He’s been through it enough during his four-year career. He said all that matters is what is said within the program.
“Outsiders are going to say what they want to say, and they’ve hyped us up all offseason,” Chubb said. “They’ll probably shoot us down now. We have to keep working for each other.”
NC State hosts Marshall and Furman the next two Saturday’s, giving the program the chance to emotionally heal.
“We are always going to play hard and play for each other, but it wasn’t enough today,” Chubb said. “Everybody is a little mad right now, but tomorrow we have to get over it for our next opponent coming up, Marshall.”
NC State went 7-6 last year and had big dreams of a special season, which can still happen, but will need to overcome adversity yet again.
“We are a mature team with all seniors, and have been through heart break,” Chubb said. “We know how to get over it and keep fighting for the next game. We have to keep fighting.”
Chubb probably thought those days were over. Instead, all he could lament was a couple of near-big plays that sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley turned into huge opportunities for the Gamecocks. Chubb finished with five tackles, two tackles for loss and one breakup, but it wasn’t enough for the projected top two-round NFL Draft hopeful.
“I put that first half on me because I didn’t make the plays that I was supposed to make,” Chubb said. “They ended up scoring touchdowns.”
NC State had experienced an offseason of praise, especially the defensive line. The group stuffed South Carolina’s ground game, but didn’t muster any sacks as a group. The two Wolfpack sacks came from senior defensive backs Shawn Boone and Johnathan Alston. The defensive line will have to lead the way in the future.
“We knew they were a good team and we knew the game plan, but we didn’t execute,” Chubb said.
Chubb mentioned a neighboring college that suffered a defeat in the opener, but bounced back to make things happen.
“I hate to bring them up, but UNC a couple of years ago lost to [South Carolina] in the first game, and played for the ACC Championship,” Chubb said. “You never know what the season holds.”
Ryan Finley Has Record Day
Quarterback Ryan Finley set a new NC State record with 45 completions in easily the best game of his young career.
The redshirt junior finished 45-of-64 for a career-high 415 yards and two touchdowns, plus added a rushing score. Due to the loss, he wasn’t in much of a celebratory mood, adding he could care less about the record. His play does gives hope that NC State could have the offensive firepower needed this season.
“I thought we moved the ball pretty well,” Finley said. “At the end of the day, we have to finish with touchdowns. We have to finish in the red zone.”
Finley also dinged his ankle a bit, but he said he was OK. South Carolina sacked him four times, and the Wolfpack offensive line had a tough second half in trying to protect Finley. All four sacks happened after halftime, and he threw for 296 of his 415 yards in the first half.
Finley, like the good leader he is, took the blame and said he held on to the ball too long in the second half.
“Tempo was one of our goals, and we knew that would hurt them and they’d get tired,” Finley said. “We were just executing and doing our job [in the first half]. We had a great game plan and tempo hurt them early.”
Finley’s passed for 3,059 yards and 18 touchdowns in his first season at NC State, after being a graduate transfer from Boise State. He appears poised to shed his game manager label to being one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC.
“He had a great game, and I’m proud of him,” Chubb said. “All camp, we’ve been going at it, offense and defense. It was impressive.”
Johnathan Alston Has Pair Of Big Plays
The last time fifth-year senior Johnathan Alston played in a college football game was against Mississippi State in the 2015 Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
He was playing wide receiver at the time in the loss against the Bulldogs. Now, he’s playing cornerback and came up with a pair of big third-down plays, snagging an interception on a deep ball and getting a key sack. He finished with three tackles and filled in admirably for the injured Mike Stevens at cornerback.
Alston said the key is to shake things off and go from there this week.
“There was no pressure, as I went out there and do what I was taught to do,” Alston said. “We’ve been here before, so the pressure thing was no big thing.”
Alston also was on the wrong end of South Carolina star receiver Deebo Samuel making a one-handed catch for a 39-yard touchdown that gave the Gamecocks a 28-21 lead in the third quarter.
“We went out there and beat ourselves on a few plays, and that was it,” Alston said.
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