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North Carolina State quarterback Matthew McKay (7) passes during the first half of an NCAA college football game against East Carolina in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Matthew McKay ran for two touchdowns and threw for another in his first start at quarterback while North Carolina State shut down East Carolina's ground game to beat the Pirates 34-6 in Saturday's season opener for both teams.
McKay scored on a 4-yard keeper just before halftime for a 17-3 lead, then got loose around the left side and dove for the pylon for a 21-yard score early in the fourth.
McKay also found a wide-open Tabari Hines on the right side for a 48-yard touchdown in the third as the Wolfpack broke the game open.
Holton Ahlers threw for 168 yards for the Pirates in their first game under new coach Mike Houston. But a promising game-opening drive ended when Ahlers fumbled inside the Wolfpack 5-yard line, and ECU never got near the end zone again until late with the outcome long decided.
ECU: East Carolina closed last season with a 58-3 loss on the same field, a disastrous afternoon that had the Pirates kicking a last-second field goal to avoid their first shutout in more than two decades. The second trip went only marginally better. ECU got nothing going on the ground, running 29 times for 41 yards (1.4-yard average) and leaving the mobile Ahlers to carry the offense almost entirely on his own. There was also a penalty that wiped out Tyler Snead's 93-yard kickoff return immediately following Hines' long TD.
N.C. State: McKay got off to a good start in taking over for departed three-year starter Ryan Finley, completing 25 of 37 passes for 308 yards while directing the Wolfpack to 505 total yards. He got plenty of help from a ground game with multiple threats led by true freshman Zonovan Knight, who ran for a team-best 42 yards and scored from 9 yards out on his first college carry. And after that opening push by the Pirates, the Wolfpack's defense settled in and controlled the line of scrimmage to close down any running lane for ECU and Ahlers (who managed 11 yards on 10 carries).
ECU: The Pirates host Gardner-Webb in their first home game under Houston next Saturday.
N.C. State: Western Carolina visits the Wolfpack next Saturday.