Jackets Rally Past Wolfpack, 24-17

Nov 2, 2002

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Associated Press Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. - A.J. Suggs and Gordon Clinkscale put an end to North Carolina State's dreams of an unbeaten season.

Suggs directed Georgia Tech to a tying score, and Clinkscale provided the go-ahead score with a 14-yard run with 9:23 left as the Yellow Jackets rallied to beat the 10th-ranked Wolfpack 24-17 Saturday.

The Yellow Jackets (6-3, 3-3 ACC) worked their game plan to perfection for most of the night, controlling the ball and keeping the Wolfpack offense on the sideline. But when they fell behind, they opened up the offense and stunned the Wolfpack (9-1, 4-1), winning for the seventh time in the last eight meetings between the teams.

"I told the team I've been involved in some great victories, and this one is certainly at the top," coach Chan Gailey said. "This was a tough situation and a tough arena for our guys to come into, but we felt very good coming into it, and we really had our confidence."

N.C. State had gotten off to the best start in school history after beating Clemson the week before. Only the 1967 Wolfpack team came close, starting 8-0 before losing two of its last three games.

With the loss, N.C. State fell one game back of the Seminoles (5-0), who beat Wake Forest 34-21.

"I told the kids (in the locker room) that they have nothing to be sad about," coach Chuck Amato said. "We win as a team and we lose as a team. But now is where we've got to stick together. We can still accomplish a lot."

Georgia Tech hands the eighth-ranked N.C. State Wolfpack their first loss in a stunning upset.

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Now the Wolfpack must rebound quickly as they prepare for the final part of the schedule, which includes games at Maryland, at Virginia and home against Florida State.

"This is the best team we've played all year, and we knew that coming in," said Wolfpack quarterback Philip Rivers, who threw for 277 yards. "We played good at times, but that wasn't enough."

They came in averaging 41 points per game, ranking sixth in the country. But Georgia Tech's defense allowed few big plays, and the offense did its part by keeping the chains moving and avoiding drive-killing miscues.

"We can't have the defense on the field the whole game," Clinkscale said. "Keep the defense fresh and off the field, they'll go out there and put it to any offense."

The Wolfpack took a 10-9 lead on Rivers' 19-yard touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery with 1:35 left in the third quarter. N.C. State made it 17-9 when freshman T.A. McLendon ran 8 yards for a TD early in the fourth quarter.

But the Yellow Jackets answered quickly. Suggs directed a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive that ended with a 2-yard toss to John Paul Foschi. Suggs' conversion pass to Jonathan Smith tied it with 10:54 to play.

The Yellow Jackets also had some good fortune. On the drive, a delay-of-game penalty against the offense nullified an N.C. State sack on third down. Suggs found Smith on the next play for a 28-yard gain and a first down.

Later on the drive, Greg Golden dropped a sure interception in the end zone after the receiver had fallen down. Suggs found Foschi for the score four plays later.

After the Wolfpack went three-and-out on its next possession, Kelly Rhino returned the punt 26 yards to give the Yellow Jackets the ball at the N.C. State 22.

After an 8-yard Suggs pass on first down, Clinkscale took the handoff, started right, then reversed field and took it down the left sideline for the go-ahead score.

N.C. State had plenty of time left to come back, but the Wolfpack couldn't put anything together. Rivers' pass was intercepted on fourth down with less than a minute to play.

Clinkscale ran for 94 yards, while Suggs threw for 211.

McLendon, who came in averaging 101.6 rushing yards, finished with 49 yards rushing and 56 receiving.

As it has all season, N.C. State started quickly, getting a 48-yard flea-flicker from Rivers to Cotchery on the first play from scrimmage. The Wolfpack ended the nine-play, 64-yard drive with a 33-yard field goal from Adam Kiker. It was the eighth time the Wolfpack had scored on its opening drive this season.