North Carolina State has been to the heights this season. The problem for the 23rd-ranked Wolfpack has been staying there.
Jason Bostic scored on a blocked punt and fumble return and Joe Hamilton added three touchdowns as Georgia Tech used a 28-point second quarter to race past the Wolfpack 47-24 Saturday.
For the second time now, the Wolfpack followed a stunning upset of a national power with a loss, essentially negating victories over Florida State and Syracuse.
N.C. State coach Mike O'Cain interrupted a postgame question geared at wide receiver Torry Holt about the team's emotional state, a criticism in a 33-30 loss at Baylor following the Florida State victory.
"Let me answer that question, I think the emotion was there," O'Cain said. "When you drop a punt, when you have a punt blocked and when you fumble and they take it into the end zone, that takes it away from you. The emotion was there."
The Hamilton-Jamie Barnette quarterback showdown never materialized as the Yellow Jackets (4-1) won their first three Atlantic Coast Conference games for the second consecutive season and moved into a first-place league tie with No. 9 Virginia.
"I really thought we were going to see the best N.C. State had. I hate to say this but I think we're a better team than N.C. State, there's no other way I can put it," said Hamilton, who was 15-of-22 for 236 yards. "That's why we came up here and beat them."
"It wasn't so much that N.C. State didn't play their game or which team showed up -- our team showed up," Hamilton added. "There was no doubt in our mind coming into this game we had a real good shot at winning. If we had lost this game it would have been an upset for us."
The mistake-prone Wolfpack (3-2, 1-1), one of two teams this season with two victories against top 15 clubs, had trouble wth its injured special teams unit.
N.C. State also saw Barnette and tailback Rahshon Spikes knocked out of the game in the first half en route to a 33-10 deficit and fourth straight loss to Georgia Tech.
"It hurt us a lot because Jamie is the general, the leader of our offense," Holt said.
After taking a big lead, Georgia Tech used one of the ACC's top ground attacks to milk the clock. The Yellow Jackets scored 40 or more points for the fourth straight week, its best offensive output since 1921.
The Yellow Jackets led 5-3 after the first quarter when a punt snap went out of the end zone for a safety.
On N.C. State's next series, backup punter Jesse Wade dropped the snap and had his feeble attempt blocked by Travares Tillman and returned 2 yards for a score by Bostic, a senior cornerback who scored for the first time in his career.
The Wolfpack closed to 12-10 a little more than a minute later when Holt connected with Chris Coleman for a 45-yard score.
Just when it appeared the ACC's top two scoring offenses would produce the fireworks expected, the Yellow Jackets broke the game open, scoring three TDs in a span of 4:44.
Hamilton hooked up with Dez White on a 31-yard scoring pass 7:29 before halftime. After a short punt by the Wolfpack on its next series, Charles Wiley capped a 48-yard march by Georgia Tech with a 1-yard run.
Barnette was knocked out with a concussion late in the half, fumbling deep in his territory after being hit by Felipe Claybrooks. Bostic picked up the ball and raced 21 yards for a touchdown as Barnette slumped to the turf.
Bostic's score was the fourth straight week the Georgia Tech defense scored a TD, a school record.
Bostic said it has been sweet revenge for a defense that was maligned after surrendering 41 points in a season-opening home loss to Boston College.
"We took a lot of heat, everyone was saying this might be the same defense as last year, but after that loss it lifted us up," Bostic said. "We said, `Hey, we've got to play as a team, we're not this team that is going to just beat everybody."'
Spikes, who gained a career-high 87 yards on the ground last Thursday in a 38-17 upset of then-No. 11 Syracuse, injured his shoulder on the opening kickoff and didn't return. Neither did Barnette, who was replaced by Charles Berry, who was seeing his first action of the season.
N.C. State's final attempt at a comeback occurred late in the third quarter, but Berry fumbled at the Georgia Tech 11 after being sacked. The Yellow Jackets then drove 89 yards, with Hamilton scoring on a 5-yard keeper. Hamilton added a fourth-quarter scoring run of 6 yards.
In addition to his 45-yard scoring pass, Holt had receptions of 48 and 40 yards and a punt return of 45 yards.
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