RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — South Alabama very nearly failed to score a touchdown for the second straight week. Now the Jaguars will have to figure out how to get their struggling offense moving again.
Ross Metheny threw a touchdown pass with 5:20 left to avoid a shutout, but little else went right in Saturday's 31-7 loss at North Carolina State. The Jaguars had 53 yards in the first half and just 202 through the first three quarters, not nearly enough production to keep up with a Wolfpack offense that scored touchdowns on its first two possessions and led 28-0 by halftime.
"They had good coverage all night," Jaguars quarterback C.J. Bennett said. "They had a great pass rush but it wasn't all our offensive line's fault. We haven't been able to sustain anything the past two games."
The Jaguars, who are in their second year of transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision ranks, failed to score a touchdown for the first time in the fourth-year program's history in last week's 9-3 home win against Nicholls State. Against the Wolfpack, South Alabama committed three turnovers, gave up seven sacks and pushed inside the N.C. State 35-yard line only three times all night.
Bennett completed 10 of 15 passes for 74 yards and an interception. Metheny completed 14 of 20 passes for 189 yards and the late score on an 8-yard pass to Jereme Jones.
"In a spread offense, we need to get the ball downfield and that's my fault." South Alabama coach Joey Jones said. "The short passes don't move the ball a lot quickly."
For N.C. State, Mike Glennon threw three touchdown passes Saturday in the Wolfpack's home debut.
Rashard Smith and Bryan Underwood each hauled in TD catches on the first two possessions for the Wolfpack (2-1), who had no trouble beating the Jaguars for the second straight year at Carter-Finley Stadium. Tony Creecy also ran for a score.
Glennon completed 24 of 34 passes for 257 yards in a turnover-free performance. He had thrown four interceptions in the season-opening loss to Tennessee in Atlanta, then struggled to get the Wolfpack offense moving in last weekend's 10-7 win at Connecticut. The 6-foot-6 graduate student entered the game with two touchdown passes this year.
Coach Tom O'Brien said there were several factors in those early struggles. The offensive line needed to protect better after giving up six sacks to the Huskies last week, the receivers had to run sharper routes and Glennon had to make better decisions.
N.C. State had few such troubles against the Jaguars. The Wolfpack opened the game with a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended when Glennon found Smith with a perfect pass down the right side for a 33-yard touchdown. On the second drive, Glennon connected with Underwood deep over the middle for a 44-yard score that made it 14-0 at the 4:06 mark of the first quarter.
The Jaguars didn't manage anything close to that proficiency. Wolfpack cornerback David Amerson ripped the ball away from receiver T.J. Glover for his 15th career interception to end the Jaguars' first drive.
N.C. State played without halfback Mustafa Greene. Greene was scheduled to start but the school announced about an hour before kickoff that the redshirt sophomore was suspended for the game. Afterward, O'Brien didn't specify a reason Greene had been suspended and wouldn't comment on his status going forward except to say Greene was still on the team.
The Wolfpack didn't miss Greene much. Creecy got the start and ran for 68 yards, including an 11-yard sprint around the right side on a fourth-down play for a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Quintin Payton added a 13-yard touchdown catch from Glennon that gave the Wolfpack a 28-0 halftime lead.