N.C. State beats Louisville in Belk Bowl
CHARLOTTE — N.C. State sophomore cornerback David Amerson wasn't thinking about breaking records coming into the season.
He ended up shattering one few thought would ever fall.
Amerson had two interceptions Tuesday night — one that he returned 65 yards for a touchdown and another with 41 seconds left that sealed the Wolfpack's 31-24 victory over Louisville in the Belk Bowl — to give him an ACC record 13 for the season.
Former North Carolina star Dre' Bly set the previous mark of 11 in 1996.
"I don't know much about (Bly), but I hear a lot about him," Amerson said. "I heard he was pretty good and he did this as a freshman, so that speaks for itself. ... It's really an honor for me. Coming into this season I wasn't thinking about that."
Amerson has more interceptions than his closest competitor in the nation.
Amerson's touchdown return in the third quarter was a thing of beauty, with the cornerback breaking four tackles. But it was the pick at the end of the game that prevented Louisville from capping a 21-point comeback.
"The DB's had to step up and make a play at the end of the game and that's what we did," Amerson said. "I just saw that ball and it was like tunnel vision. I was going to go get it."
N.C. State picked off three of Teddy Bridgewater's passes and sacked him five times, twice knocking him out of the game for a play.
"Their blitz pattern was simple. It's just that they blitz so much though that they disguised it well," Bridgewater said. "It was more than I've been chased all year."
Amerson's performance was a big part of the N.C. State's win, but he had help.
Mike Glennon, the game's MVP, threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns, including two to senior receiver T.J. Graham, who made the most of his final game at N.C. State with seven catches for 116 yards.
Glennon threw another TD pass to Tobais Palmer, who made what Glennon called "the best catch I've seen all year" when he completely spun his body around in the air and managed to catch the ball and keep running to the end zone. He scored from 35 yards out.
Glennon finished the season with 31 touchdown passes.
The offensive play of the game came when Graham caught a pass over the middle from Glennon and broke two tackles en route to a 68-yard touchdown reception that gave the Wolfpack (8-5) a 21-10 lead just before halftime.
N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien took a lot of heat when he decided to part ways with star quarterback Russell Wilson and go with the unproven Glennon as his starter.
It all worked out Tuesday night.
So O'Brien feels vindicated, right?
"I never had to feel vindicated by any of that," said O'Brien, 8-2 in bowl games. "That would never be my goal once I made a decision. I don't care what people think. I made a decision what was best for this football team going forward. When I made the decision and weighing all options and looking at the talent this kid has I knew we would have a quarterback. I don't have to feel vindicated by anybody."
Then he smiled and added, "but he helped (vindicate) me."
"I knew Russell was a great player and would do great wherever he ended up but I also felt confidence in myself and I know my teammates had confidence in me, so I knew I would do just fine this year," Glennon said.
The Cardinals finished the season 7-6.
"North Carolina State is an outstanding football team, but we are nowhere near what we should be," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. "If you look at a team that's what we have to get to. We have to do a better job of recruiting and we have to be able to go make plays and get playmakers into our offense and also get playmakers into our defense. It was a good learning experience for us."
"We were able to come back the second half and get the game back to seven but we still were just battling and then too much pressure on the quarterback. Teddy took a beating tonight but we knew they were going to bring pressure and we just weren't able to block them and they were able to beat one on one blocks and we weren't able to get to their quarterback."