RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Russell Wilson threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns and North Carolina State beat Cincinnati 30-19 on Thursday night to improve to 3-0 for the first time in eight years.
Jay Smith and Curtis Underwood Jr. had first-half touchdown catches, and Mustafa Greene had a 31-yard scoring run that gave N.C. State a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The Wolfpack led the entire way behind Wilson and a defense that pressured Zach Collaros much of the night.
Cincinnati (1-2) didn't run a play inside the N.C. State 32 until the final minutes, but the Wolfpack had a big lead by that point. Collaros connected with D.J. Woods twice for touchdowns, the first from 68 yards late in the first half.
N.C. State is off to its best start since winning its first nine games behind eventual NFL first-round draft pick Philip Rivers at quarterback in 2002.
Wilson bounced back from a frustrating performance last weekend at Central Florida, where he completed just 10 of 30 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown.
At the time, it seemed Wilson was having some of the struggles coach Tom O'Brien predicted after he missed spring drills while concentrating on playing baseball for the Wolfpack, followed by spending the summer playing minor league baseball in the Colorado Rockies' organization. O'Brien had said it would take time for Wilson to find his game again, though on Thursday night he played with the steady presence that made him an All-Atlantic Coast Conference quarterback as a freshman two seasons ago.
He completed 26 of 40 passes, including an 8-yard touchdown strike to Taylor Gentry with about 7½ minutes left to make it 30-7.
At least Wilson and his teammates eased O'Brien's mind about playing a nationally televised game with only four days of rest. Not to mention give the much-criticized ACC - which has stumbled in its early nonconference matchups - a needed win against a team picked to tie for second in the Big East.
While Wilson had the offense going, N.C. State's defense did its part, too. The Wolfpack finished with five sacks, hurried Collaros four times and notched a fourth-and-1 stop early in the fourth quarter. The only blemish was allowing Cincinnati to score a pair of meaningless touchdowns in the final 6½ minutes.
N.C. State also blocked a punt to set up Gentry's touchdown catch.