While Torry Holt may be North Carolina State's game-breaker, there's little doubt Jamie Barnette is the team's catalyst.
Barnette upstaged Donovan McNabb as the Wolfpack pulled off its second major upset in three weeks Thursday night, rolling up more than 500 yards in a 38-17 victory over No. 11 Syracuse.
"He never ceases to amaze me," N.C. State coach Mike O'Cain said of his junior quarterback, who had 349 yards of total offense himself. "He did some things that you just can't coach. "
"I've said many times that Jamie has a remarkable knack when things break down in the pocket, that his vision is there and he can see the field. There are quarterbacks who scramble that become oblivious to what is going on around them. But Jamie always keeps his options open."
Barnette threw for 282 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 67 yards and two more scores as the Wolfpack (3-1) held McNabb - Syracuse's Heisman Trophy candidate - to 17 total yards in the opening half while building a 28-10 lead.
Syracuse defensive coordinator George DeLeone said his unit worked all week in practice trying to stop Barnette, who burned them a season ago. However, nothing seemed to work for the Orangemen defense again Thursday night.
"He competes harder than most Division I athletes that you're going to come across," DeLeone said. "His knack on third down, getting away from the rush and then having to stay in coverage with that No. 81 (Holt) puts tremendous, tremendous stress on a defense. "
"It's not like we didn't prepare for it. It's not like we didn't work on it. It's not like we hadn't seen it on film. It was all of the above, and the kid still beat us."
N.C. State upset then No. 2 Florida State 24-7 on Sept. 12 to move to 20th in The Associated Press poll before falling out after a 33-30 loss at Baylor. That win over the Seminoles, coupled with the Syracuse upset Thursday, are the biggest in the same season for the Wolfpack since victories over No. 8 Penn State and No. 13 Florida in 1975. The Orangemen (2-2) are now winless in six tries against the Wolfpack, including last year's 32-31 overtime loss at the Carrier Dome.
Holt was once again Barnette's favorite target, hooking up six times for 132 yards as the senior became the school's career leader in receiving yards.
McNabb tried to rally Syracuse with an 8-yard scoring pass late in the third quarter after a fumble by Wolfpack fullback Jeff Butler, cutting the N.C. State margin to 14.
But after driving Syracuse to midfield early in the fourth quarter, the scrambling McNabb was sacked for an 18-yard loss and a personal foul against the Orangemen was added on the play to kill the drive - and ultimately the hopes of Syracuse, which came in averaging 47 points a game, third in the nation.
Barnette scored on a 4-yard option play with 11:05 left to ice the game.
The Wolfpack secondary, which came into the game with a NCAA-est 10 interceptions, picked off McNabb twice.
Syracuse took a quick lead as McNabb ran in from 2 yards out on a fourth-down play on the game's opening series. But it was all downhill for the Orangemen the rest of the half as Syracuse was unable to stop the explosive Wolfpack offense.
Barnette drove N.C. State 84 yards on the Wolfpack's first series, completing passes of 41 yards to Holt on a third-and-20 play and a 36-yard swing pass to Rahshon Spikes as he was being sacked. Spikes scored two plays later on a 7-yard option play to tie the score at 7-7.
One minute later, Tony Scott picked off McNabb for the first time this season, returning it 21 yards to the Syracuse 34 as McNabb make a TD-saving tackle.
Barnette's 17-yard pass to Holt on another key third down set up his 1-yard keeper as the Wolfpack took the lead for good 1:55 before the end of the first quarter.
Barnette led two more scoring drives in the final 12 minutes of the second quarter, completing a 14-yard scoring pass to Ryan Hamrick to cap a 78-yard march, and passes of 29 and 19 yards to Chris Coleman to set up Ray Robinson's 1-yard TD.
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