East Carolina's BCS-busting hopes all but over after OT loss to N.C. State

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Andre Brown jumped over one defender, then ran over another. Nothing was going to stop him from possibly saving North Carolina State's season -- especially not ranked rival East Carolina.

Brown's 10-yard touchdown run in overtime lifted NC State to a 30-24 upset of the 15th-ranked Pirates on Saturday.

Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes -- including a tying 5-yarder to George Bryan with 1:12 left in regulation for the Wolfpack (2-2). The seven-point underdogs hung around all afternoon and never trailed by more than a touchdown in rallying for Tom O'Brien's most impressive win at NC State and its biggest upset since a victory at then-No. 9 Florida State in 2005.

"This is the first time we've played 60 minutes of tough, hard-nosed football," O'Brien said. "The plays we weren't making in the past, we made them today."

The Pirates didn't, and now their BCS-busting hopes are all but over. Patrick Pinkney was 19-of-32 passing for 210 yards and a touchdown for East Carolina (3-1), but he was stripped by Shea McKeen on East Carolina's third play in overtime, giving NC State a shot at the upset.

"I just jacked up the tight end and took off," McKeen said. "The first thing I go for is the ball, especially if the quarterback doesn't know I'm coming, because he's not going to hold it too tight."

Brown then hurdled defender J.J. Milbrook during the remarkable 16-yard run that set up the winning score. On the next play, he powered through defensive lineman Jay Ross while extending the ball over the goal line to end the game.

"I just said, 'I didn't want to rely on the kicker,'" Brown said. "I want to go out here and put this boy in here and get off the field."

Brown finished with 73 yards and a 4-yard touchdown reception from Wilson, a redshirt freshman making his first home start. He went 21-for-31 for 210 yards and added a 20-yard TD toss to Jarvis Williams.

He also energized a Wolfpack offense that until now had been miserable.

NC State entered with no touchdowns this season against teams from the bowl subdivision. The Wolfpack scored a total of nine points in losses at South Carolina and Clemson, and were one of just three teams in the FBS ranking 100th or worse in all four major stat categories -- rushing, passing, scoring and total offense.

But O'Brien's young team played with newfound poise at home and welcomed running back Jamelle Eugene, who missed the previous three games with an ankle injury. Eugene caught a team-best seven passes for 50 yards in his season debut.

As a result, the Wolfpack finished with 384 total yards against an East Carolina defense that entered statistically better than three-fourths of the bowl subdivision.

"They listen to the trash about how they can't score and how they've been scoreless for so many halves [against FBS teams]," O'Brien said. "It bothers our young guys. Our veterans are more used to it and don't take it to heart. This win got the weight off their shoulders and showed them how it feels to win a big game."

Pinkney had a 39-yard scoring pass to Devon Drew for the Pirates, who have lost 14 of the 21 meetings in Raleigh.

Still, this wasn't the matchup against a BCS-conference team they were supposed to lose.

After opening with upsets of then-ranked Virginia Tech and West Virginia, the tables were turned on a targeted East Carolina team that looked vulnerable for a second straight week after needing a rally to top Tulane.

"[The attention] was something that we weren't used to the last couple of years," safety Van Eskridge said. "But I wouldn't call it a distraction. The coaches did a great job of helping us keep things in their perspective and helping us realize that what we did up until this point was, really, nothing. We won three games. We didn't have a champion tag behind our name."

Eskridge returned an interception 23 yards for a score and third-stringer Norman Whitley added 83 yards rushing and a 42-yard scoring run for the Pirates, who never trailed in regulation but couldn't generate any separation against the most despised rival on its schedule.

After Ben Hartman's 21-yard field goal with 4 1/2 minutes left put the Pirates up 24-17, NC State's offense went to work: T.J. Graham returned the kickoff to the Wolfpack 45, and Wilson needed only two plays to move them into the red zone, hitting Williams for 26 yards and Andre Brown for 17.

Five plays later, Wilson found a sliding Bryan in the end zone. The officials initially ruled the pass incomplete, but reversed the call after a review of about 5 minutes. East Carolina then went three-and-out on its final possession of regulation.

But the Pirates also could have put the game away well before that.

They had a first-and-goal with about 10 minutes left and advanced to the 1 but failed to score. The series ended with Jonathan Williams being stuffed for a 4-yard loss from the 1.

"The decision to go for the touchdown there was all mine," coach Skip Holtz said. "We had a missed assignment and one of their guys got in the backfield. Give NC State a lot of credit. They had to make some big plays to stop us, and they did."