Hall Stars In Wolfpack Debut; N.C. State Routs Western
Posted August 30, 2003 11:13 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — Tramain Hall waited nearly three years to step onto the field in a North Carolina State jersey.
After his debut Saturday night, Wolfpack fans would say it was worth the wait.
Hall caught a touchdown pass, had a 67-yard punt return for another score, and Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes as No. 16 N.C. State enjoyed a 59-20 rout over Western Carolina.
Hall finished with seven catches for 97 yards and a touchdown as N.C. State won its seventh straight season-opener. Western Carolina fell to 0-21 against Atlantic Coast Conference schools and 0-5 against the Wolfpack.
See WCU-NCSU Boxscore, Scoring Summary
N.C. State scored touchdowns on five of its six first-half possessions, moving the ball at will against the Div. I-AA Catamounts. The Wolfpack punted only once, finished with 494 total yards and got production throughout the lineup.
Rivers completed 26 of 30 passes for 320 yards before being pulled in the third period for Jay Davis, who went eight-for-nine for 83 yards.
T.A. McLendon rushed for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Sterling Hicks had seven catches for 110 yards.
But all anyone wanted to talk about after the game was Hall.
"He can do so many things," Rivers said. "He can line up in the backfield. He can be a wide receiver. He's a great addition, and we've waited for him long enough."
Hall, a 5-11, 183-pound redshirt sophomore, first enrolled at N.C. State in December 2000. But he was ruled an NCAA non-qualifier after questions arose about his scores on the Florida competency test required for high-school graduation.
After one season at L.A. Valley Junior College, he again was ruled ineligible by the ACC, meaning he also had to sit out the Wolfpack's record-setting 11-3 season of 2002.
On Saturday, he fought back tears in the tunnel before the game and again when he was mobbed by teammates after scoring his first touchdown.
"Oh, it was worth the wait," Hall said with a smile. "If I didn't get the ball, the whole point was just being out there."
He wasted no time making an impression on the 53,800 fans at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Rivers found Hall for 12-, 18- and 11-yard gains on the Wolfpack's first three plays. On the next play, Rivers found Hall on the right side for the six-yard TD just 92 seconds into the game.
"It couldn't have happened to a better guy," Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato said. "I knew we were going to throw to him right off, but I didn't know he was going to catch all the passes on the first drive like he did."
After Western Carolina came up empty on a long drive, Rivers went back to Hall, who reversed field after a short pass and gained 29 yards. McLendon ended that 11-play, 80-yard drive with an eight-yard run for a 14-0 lead with 4:23 left in the period.
In the second quarter, with the Wolfpack leading 28-7, Hall energized the crowd again with his big punt return. Using a block from Gregory Golden, Hall raced down the left sideline in front of the Wolfpack bench for the 67-yard score.
Reserve Cotra Jackson added a rushing and receiving touchdown for N.C. State.
After Hall's first touchdown, Western Carolina marched 62 yards on its first drive but came up empty when Chris Vought missed a 35-yard field goal.
The Catamounts got on the board in the second quarter, taking advantage of a fumble by McLendon. True freshman Nicholas Wishart ended the 27-yard drive with an eight-yard run to cut N.C. State's lead to 21-7 with 11:02 left in the quarter.
The Catamounts got no closer. After touchdowns by Jackson and Hall, Rivers found Jerricho Cotchery for an 18-yard touchdown pass and a 42-7 lead with 2:39 left before halftime.
"Defensively we're disappointed in our performance," said Catamounts coach Kent Briggs, who spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach in Raleigh. "N.C. State has a great offense, and they have a lot of weapons.
"They had a lot to do with the way our defense performed, but we also made a lot of mistakes."