College Football

NC State Routs Vanderbilt in Camping World Independence Bowl

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SHREVEPORT, LA – The 41st edition of the Camping World Independence Bowl game was played Monday night on a muggy, 80 degree evening. A crowd of  28,995 and a national TV audience on ESPN2 saw the Wolfpack of North Carolina State score an easy win over the Vanderbilt Commodores, 41-17.

The star for NC State was WR Jaylen Samuels, who set a new Independence Bowl record, scoring on three pass receptions for touchdowns. The Wolfpack also scored a special teams’ TD on a 100-yard kickoff return by Nyheim Hines in the fourth quarter, at a point where Vanderbilt had brought the score back within 11 points of the lead, delivering the final blow to Vandy’s hopes of pulling off any comeback.

Head coach Derek Mason of the Commodores thought the layoff after almost a month since their last game affected his team. They had won their final two games of the season vs. Mississippi and Tennessee to become bowl eligible. “We looked a little rusty, all the way around… special teams, offense and defense…we just didn’t look like the Vanderbilt team that came out of the regular season”, Mason said.

The Wolfpack finished their season at 7-6. They led by as much as 28-3 in the third quarter, but then gave up two touchdowns which brought the Commodores back into the game for a brief moment. That was quickly erased by Hines’ length of the field kickoff return, which put NC State back in front by 18 points. Vandy never recovered, going scoreless for the remainder of the contest.

QB Ryan Finley was efficient for the Wolfpack, going 19-for-30 passing for 235 yards. Samuels caught six passes altogether for 104 yards gained.

NC State coach Dave Doeren praised his passing attack, led by Samuels. “Just give him the ball in as many ways possible…we were just taking what they were giving us, and then our receivers did a great job of blocking for [Samuels]”, Doeren said.

Vanderbilt finished its season with a 6-7 overall record. They were unable to mount much of an offensive attack, except briefly in the middle of the second half when they scored two unanswered touchdowns. Vandy QB Kyle Shurmur was off his usual game, only able to complete 19-of-46 passes, with three interceptions. “There’s a fine line between being aggressive and careless, and I crossed it a few times”, Shurmur said.

Tailback Ralph Webb gained 111 yards on the ground for the Commodores.

The Commodores took a brief 3-0 lead on a 52-yard field goal by place kicker Tommy Openshaw with about six minutes left in the first quarter. The 52 yarder was an Independence Bowl record. With 9:08 to go until halftime, Samuels scored the first of his three touchdown pass receptions, giving the Wolfpack a 7-3 lead, which they never relinquished. Openshaw missed a 27 yard field goal later in the second quarter. Samuels second touchdown reception gave the Wolfpack a 14-3 lead at the half.

An interception and 25 yard return by Josh Jones set the Wolfpack up at Vandy’s 18 yard line early in the third quarter. Tailback Reggie Gallaspy II finished off a short TD drive by scoring from five yards out, giving the Wolfpack a 21-3 lead with 11:50 to go in the third quarter. Samuels third TD reception gave NC State a commanding 28-3 lead with 5:34 left in the third quarter.

Ralph Webb scored on a 30 yard TD run for Vanderbilt late in the third quarter, making the score 28-10 going into the fourth quarter. Khari Blasingame recorded the last score of the game for Vanderbilt, on a one-yard plunge with 10:37 left in the fourth quarter.

Niles Clark scored on a pick six interception return for the final Wolfpack margin of victory, on the last play of the game.

Linebacker Airius Moore stepped up big for the NC State defense, garnering nine tackles and two sacks on the evening.

Both teams are looking forward to building on their 2016 season accomplishments heading into the 2017 season.

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