CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mike Glennon threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns and David Amerson returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown as North Carolina State defeated Louisville 31-24 in the Belk Bowl.
T.J. Graham made the most of his final game at N.C. State with seven catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns, including a 65-yard score on a nifty catch-and-run, as the Wolfpack (8-5) overcame a series of special teams blunders to hold off a late charge from the Cardinals (7-6).
Amerson had two more interceptions to give him 13 for the season, the most in the country, while setting a new Atlantic Coast Conference record.
Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, who threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another, nearly brought the Cardinals back from a 21-point deficit, but his final heave on fourth-and-23 was picked off by Amerson with 41 seconds left.
Louisville used a fake punt and recovered an onside kick to get back in the game after falling behind 31-10.
Bridgewater threw a pair of 2-yard touchdown passes to close the gap to 31-24 with 3:55 left in the game.
The Cardinals had once last chance to send the game into overtime after stopping N.C. State on fourth-and-2. However, on a third-and-12 Dontae Johnson sacked Bridgewater for an 11-yard loss setting up Amerson’s clinching interception.
The Wolfpack came into the game leading the nation in interceptions and picked off Bridgewater three times.
On Louisville’s first possession, Bridgewater came under pressure and made a poor decision to try to dump the ball off, but instead threw it in the hands of linebacker Terrell Manning for an interception. Glennon took advantage, methodically driving the Wolfpack 79 yards completing 6 of 7 passes for 49 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown strike to Graham to take a 7-0 lead.
Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien was worried about his young special teams unit coming into the game and his worst fears were realized on his team’s next drive. Freshman punter Will Baumann mishandled a low snap from center and was swarmed under at the 5-yard line.
The Cardinals cashed in three plays later on an 8-yard touchdown run by Bridgewater to tie the game.
After Louisville went ahead 10-7, Glennon bounced back from an early interception by completing five straight passes for 80 yards, capped by a 35-yard touchdown to Tobais Palmer, who made a nice adjustment with the ball in midair to haul in the pass.
Then came the play of the game as Graham caught a pass over the middle from Glennon and broke two tackles en route to a 68-yard touchdown reception giving the Wolfpack a 21-10 lead at the break.
N.C. State tacked on three more to start the third quarter after a pair of costly Louisville penalties — a running into the kicker on Adrian Bushell on fourth down and unnecessary roughness call on linebacker Preston Brown after the Cardinals stopped the Wolfpack on third down.
The Wolfpack seemingly put the game away 17 seconds later when Amerson intercepted Bridgewater downfield and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown.
With his team trailing down 24, Louisville coach Charlie Strong started to gamble.
Strong called for a fake punt after the Cardinals’ next drive stalled and Preston Brown, the up back on the punt team, took a direct snap from center and raced 32 yards for a first down. That set up a 2-yard touchdown pass from Bridgewater to tight end Nate Nord in the back corner of the end zone.
Bridgewater added another 2-yard touchdown pass to Josh Bellamy but it wasn’t enough.