Daniel Evans threw for 335 yards and three touchdowns while North Carolina State built a 21-point first-half lead before holding on to beat East Carolina 34-20 on Saturday night.
Jamelle Eugene, John Dunlap and Darrell Davis had scoring catches for the Wolfpack (2-5), who beat a Football Bowl Subdivision team for the first time in more than a year. J.C. Neal also returned a blocked punt for a touchdown as N.C. State got a rare taste of success in its first year under coach Tom O'Brien.
Still, it wasn't easy. The Wolfpack nearly blew a 21-0 lead amid a familiar array of miscues before getting Eugene's fourth-quarter score to finally get some breathing room.
It was a disappointing loss for the Pirates (4-4), a program that lives in the shadows of the headline-grabbing Atlantic Coast Conference schools to the west. East Carolina had already taken down one of those schools here this season, beating North Carolina on a last-play field goal in September.
And while Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium was full of respect-starved fans eager to beat another ACC school, N.C. State wouldn't let it happen.
Evans completed 29 of 44 passes to lead the offense, while Eugene rushed for 63 yards as the Wolfpack stopped a 12-game losing streak to former Division I-A programs. N.C. State's last Football Bowl Subdivision win was against Florida State on Oct. 5, 2006.
East Carolina got as close as 21-20 entering the final quarter, but Evans responded by directing consecutive scoring drives. On the first, the Wolfpack went 58 yards before getting a 41-yard field goal from Steven Hauschka with 12:42 left.
Then, after DeMario Pressley intercepted a tipped pass to get the ball back, Evans found Eugene for a perfectly thrown 15-yard touchdown that made it 31-20 with 8:32 left.
Just about everything had gone wrong in O'Brien's first season as Wolfpack coach, from an unlucky string of injuries to having the nation's worst turnover margin. And that problem surfaced again to undo a fantastic start.
After converting an East Carolina turnover into a quick touchdown pass and scoring on a blocked punt for the 21-0 lead, the Wolfpack gave most of that right back before the break. Evans started with an interception in Wolfpack territory that led to the Chris Johnson 1 yard fourth-down run for the Pirates midway through the second quarter.
Then, after the Wolfpack failed to convert on a questionable fake field goal call, Rob Kass directed a quick 72-yard drive that ended with his 18-yard TD pass to Jamar with 23 seconds left. And finally, Donald Bowens fumbled the ensuing kickoff to set up Ben Hartman’s 47-yard field goal as time expired to make it 21-17 at the break.
Kass threw for 254 yards and a score for the Pirates, while Johnson ran for 63 yards.