Down 24-0, N.C. State roars back to beat Gophers
Updated: Friday December 29, 2000 12:50 AM
MIAMI (AP) -- North Carolina State owned the fourth quarter all season. The Wolfpack extended that to the entire second half to win the Micronpc.com Bowl.
N.C. State, which rallied for five fourth-quarter wins during the regular season, spotted Minnesota a 24-point lead, then roared back behind Philip Rivers and Koren Robinson to beat the Golden Gophers 38-30 on Thursday night.
"They learned if we could get to the fourth period we would have a chance," Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato said. "But when you're down 24-0, you don't have a lot of confidence left in you."
"It's amazing what you preach to your players," Minnesota coach Glen Mason said. "I tell them all the time that a game is a full 60 minutes."
Robinson scored on a 19-yard reverse in a 17-point third quarter, then scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 23-yard pass from Rivers with 11:01 left as the Wolfpack finished 8-4.
"If I need to take over I will take over," Robinson said. "We've seen this all year the way we've come back. Minnesota was testing our manhood, but once we get rolling I don't think anybody can stop us."
Minnesota (6-6) led 24-8 at the half, but wasted a Micron Bowl-record 246-yard rushing performance from Tellis Redmon as the Gophers fell victim to yet another Wolfpack comeback.
"We're not into individual achievements in our program," Mason said of Redmon's effort. "We would have much rather won the game."
Rivers, N.C. State's 18-year-old freshman quarterback, was selected the most valuable player, going 24-of-39 for 310 yards. Robinson added a Micron-record 157 receiving yards.
The Wolfpack clinched it with 3:16 left on an 8-yard run by Ray Robinson just five seconds after Minnesota QB Travis Cole fumbled deep in his own territory.
Redmon's 42 carries and his rushing yardage broke the marks of North Carolina's Leon Johnson in 1995 when Johnson carried 29 times for 195 yards against Arkansas.
Rivers threw for an Atlantic Coast Conference freshman record 3,054 yards and 25 TDs, but was off his game early. He was limited to 45 yards in the first quarter as the Gophers bolted to a 24-0 lead in front of virtually empty upper deck at Pro Player Stadium.
"The biggest change is that we had a nice talk at halftime -- a real nice talk," Amato said.
In fact, Rivers completed 50 passes of 20 or more yards this year, but managed no pass longer than 14 yards in the first half against a Minnesota defense that finished in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten and was missing secondary starters Willie Middlebrooks (broken ankle) and Delvin Jones (suspension).
He warmed up in the second half, along with Koren Robinson.
N.C. State trailed 24-8 at halftime but got back into the game with a big third quarter. A blocked punt by Brian Williams set up a 19-yard reverse by Koren Robinson and Kent Passingham's 37-yard field goal closed the gap to 24-19.
"I really thought we hurt ourselves with unforced penalties," said Mason, whose club was called for 14 for 107 yards. "And I thought the blocked punt was the key play in the game. You could feel their crowd get back into the game and their players get back into the game."
Koren Robinson's key TD catch early in the fourth improved the Wolfpack to 6-0 in the fourth-quarter comebacks in 2000 in Amato's first bowl game as a head coach.
"We've got a bunch of sad kids in that locker room and a bunch of shook coaches," Mason said.
It didn't take long for the Gophers to find N.C. State's weakness, rushing for 131 yards in the opening quarter.
"We couldn't stop the Sister's of the Poor at first," Amato said. "We were frightful of that -- that they might run the ball down our throats."
While Minnesota was chewing up big yardage on the ground, Rivers was shaky on the Wolfpack's first few drives.
Rivers threw just 10 interceptions in 441 attempts during the regular season, but was picked off 50 seconds in and later in the first quarter as N.C. State fell into a big hole.
Rivers' second pass bounced off the chest of Ray Robinson and into the arms of Justin Hall at the Wolfpack 23. Four plays later, Redmon raced in from 12 yards and Minnesota led 7-0 less than two minutes into the game.
A 40-yard pass to a wide open Ron Johnson to the N.C. State 16 set up Redmon's second score of the quarter -- a 3-yard pitch around right end.
The Gophers drove 72 yards after Andre Brown's interception, which bounced off Jimmy Henry right to him. Redmon set up Cole's 2-yard QB keeper with runs of 12 and 32 yards in the drive as he gained 93 yards in the opening 15 minutes.