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Wilson wills N.C. State past Tech

Photo by John Bazemore

Photo by John Bazemore

ATLANTA -- Russell Wilson and North Carolina State embarrassed Georgia Tech's new 3-4 defense by posting a big 4-5 on the defending ACC champions.

Wilson passed for a career-high 368 yards and three touchdowns and N.C. State answered Georgia Tech's fourth-quarter rally to beat the Yellow Jackets 45-28 on Saturday and remain unbeaten.

Wilson completed 28 of 41 passes and ran for a touchdown as North Carolina State (4-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) continued its best start since winning its first nine games in 2002.

Georgia Tech scored two quick fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 33-yard interception return by Jerrard Tarrant, to cut N.C. State's lead to 31-28 early in the fourth quarter. Wilson responded by leading two touchdown drives.

"The good thing is we went down and answered them," said N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien. "Our offense answered every time they had to today. That was a real key."

Wilson threw a 23-yard scoring pass to T.J. Graham to cap a nine-play, 74-yard drive. Mustafa Greene added a 5-yard scoring run with 4:08 remaining.

Wilson also threw touchdown passes to Steven Howard and Jarvis Williams, who returned Asa Watson's blocked punt for a touchdown in the first quarter.

N.C. State gained 527 yards and scored its most points in the series with Georgia Tech.

"Offensively, we played great," said Wilson, who spent the offseason playing baseball in the Colorado Rockies' farm system.

O'Brien said Wilson reclaimed his football form in a 30-19 win over Cincinnati on Sept. 16 and continued to gain momentum against Georgia Tech (2-2, 1-1).

"A week ago and again today, that's the Russell we're used to seeing," O'Brien said. "He's going to continue to get a lot better."

N.C. State held Georgia Tech to 247 yards rushing -- almost 100 yards below the Yellow Jackets' average.

"To keep them under 250 yards rushing is a great day," O'Brien said.

The win could help establish the Wolfpack as an early favorite in the league.

"We're going to find ways to win some games this year," O'Brien said.

Added Williams: "We've got something going here."

Linebacker Nate Irving led the defense with a career-high 16 tackles.

The loss snapped Georgia Tech's streak of eight straight conference wins, including last year's defeat of Clemson in the ACC championship game.

"(Wilson) is a really good player," said Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson. "They made plays and we didn't. We dug ourselves such a hold that we were always trying to get out."

After winning the ACC title, Johnson brought in Al Groh as the new defensive coordinator. The defense is still adjusting to Groh's 3-4 scheme.

"Out of 81 plays on defense, I only recall us making three plays of significance," Groh said of two sacks by Brad Jefferson and an interception return for a touchdown by Jerrard Tarrant.

The last time Georgia Tech gave up as many as 45 points in regulation in a home conference game was on Nov. 2, 1996, when Florida State took a 49-3 win at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Wilson had help from the Wolfpack's running game. Dean Haynes had 18 carries for 75 yards and Greene had 13 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown.

Orwin Smith and Roddy Jones had touchdown runs for Georgia Tech. Joshua Nesbitt threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Melton in the fourth quarter.

Nesbitt had 19 carries for 95 yards rushing. He completed only 5 of 18 passes for 116 yards.

Tarrant's interception was the first thrown by Wilson this season. It was his first interception in 169 attempts in a streak that began last season. Wilson, a junior, set the NCAA record with 379 attempts without an interception in a streak that overlapped his freshman and sophomore seasons.

Tarrant's interception gave Georgia Tech hope, but the Yellow Jackets couldn't stop the Wolfpack.

An official review gave the Wolfpack their second touchdown. Leading 10-7 late in the first half, Wilson's pass to Howard at the back of the end zone was ruled an incomplete pass. The review with only 22 seconds remaining determined Howard had control of the ball with one foot in the end zone, giving N.C. State a 17-7 halftime lead.

Josh Czajkowski missed two 31-yard field goal attempts and was good on a 35-yarder for N.C. State.

Georgia Tech center Sean Bedford left the game in the first quarter with an injury to his lower right leg. He did not return.