Thayer Thomas returned a punt 76 yards for a third-quarter touchdown to help North Carolina State pull away from visiting Ball State in a 34-23 victory Saturday night at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.
Quarterback Matthew McKay ran for two touchdowns. McKay was pulled for a first-half series, then returned to complete 10 of 13 passes for the remainder of the half.
NC State (3-1), coming off a loss a week earlier at West Virginia, completed the nonleague portion of its schedule with a bounce-back performance.
NC State took control in the second quarter, wiping out a 7-6 hole.
Ricky Person Jr. ran 3 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with 6:18 showing left. Then McKay scored on a 5-yard run to complete a 10-play, 82-yard drive with 1:38 left in the half.
Thomas’ return came after Ball State was thwarted on its first possession of the second half.
Ball State (1-3) trailed 27-7 before field goals from Ryan Rimmler from 43, 43 and 28 yards in a period of a little more than 13 minutes spanning the third and fourth quarters.
When Bryce Crosby intercepted McKay, the Cardinals had more momentum with more than 11 minutes to play.
That was short-lived. NC State’s Matt Fisher blocked a Ball State punt to give his team possession at the Ball State 7-yard line, and the Wolfpack converted on a McKay 3-yard touchdown run.
Still, Ball State stayed in it with Caleb Huntley scoring on a 2-yard run with 4:49 remaining before the Cardinals recovered an onside kick.
Ball State moved to the NC State 20, but Chris Ingram intercepted quarterback Drew Plitt. Plitt finished 33-for-57 for 333 yards and the interception.
McKay was 17-for-30 for 175 yards and an interception.
Ball State’s Justin Hall ran for a 7-yard touchdown in the first quarter. It was the first touchdown allowed by NC State in a home game across a four-game stretch dating to last season.
Christopher Dunn booted field goals from 39 and 34 yards in the first quarter for NC State.
—Field Level Media