RALEIGH, North Carolina — North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett never looked sharp, took too many hard hits and found himself playing to the finish in a blowout home loss.
It was a rough day for the Florida transfer, who committed three turnovers — two returned for touchdowns — in Saturday's 56-23 loss to Georgia Tech. He ran for a team-high 77 yards on the day and threw for 213 yards, the fifth straight game in which he failed to throw for at least 225 yards.
"I've just got to hit the next one," Brissett said. "It's still there. The players are still getting open. It's just on me to find a way to get them the ball."
Brissett was also shaken up after taking a sack that led to a second-quarter fumble. He was down on the field for several minutes, then walked slowly to the sideline where medical staff examined his rib area and even listened to his breathing with a stethoscope briefly.
Brissett stayed in the entire way, throwing a meaningless 19-yard touchdown to David J. Grinnage with 7:05 left on what turned out to be the Wolfpack's final offensive play.
"Why wouldn't I want to go out there?" Brissett said. "I still could walk, so I should be fine to go out and play."
For Georgia Tech, D.J. White and Quayshawn Nealy scored defensive touchdowns in the second quarter. White's 38-yard interception return and Nealy's 43-yard fumble return put the Yellow Jackets (8-2, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) in firm control, blowing open a close game to keep them right behind No. 22 Duke in the Coastal Division standings.
It was a welcome contribution for a defense that has struggled amid the brilliance of the league's top total offense. That unit did its part, too, finishing with 549 total yards behind a big day from Synjyn Days.
Days ran for 157 yards and a touchdown, while reserve quarterback Tim Byerly ran for two scores and starter Justin Thomas ran for one.
Brissett and Matt Dayes each ran for scores for the Wolfpack (5-5, 1-5), who led early but was outscored 49-3 over the next 35-plus minutes.
N.C. State had lost four straight games and 12 straight in league play before winning at Syracuse last week, bringing the Wolfpack a needed dose of confidence while also pulling the program within a win of bowl eligibility.
Yet N.C. State couldn't build on that win, instead watching Georgia Tech take control of the game in a bizarre second quarter.
Trailing 14-13, North Carolina State drove near the goal line early in the second quarter before Nealy intercepted a pass that bounced off the foot of a teammate. He returned it 69 yards before fumbling after being chased down from behind and stripped by Jaylen Samuels.
But that took N.C. State back to the 28, and two plays later, White stepped in front of Brissett's pass for Marquez Valdes-Scantling and raced down the sideline for the interception return that made it 21-13.
Then, Nealy got a second chance for a big play, grabbing Brissett's fumble on a sack and running 43 yards for a TD that made it 28-13 with 7:12 left in the half.
At that point, North Carolina State's offense had run 22 straight offensive plays going back to the final play of the first quarter. Georgia Tech didn't take an offensive snap in the quarter until the 4:02 mark, though that started another scoring drive that ended with Byerly's 2-yard keeper for a 35-13 lead just before the break.
Georgia Tech opened the second half with a 75-yard drive that ended with Byerly's 1-yard score, ending what little drama was left.
It was N.C. State's most lopsided home loss since falling to Maryland 37-0 in November 2007 under former coach Tom O'Brien, according to STATS. It also stood as the Wolfpack's seventh straight home loss against ACC opponents.
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