ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) ï¿½ If this was Russell Wilson’s football finale, he sure made the most of it.
Wilson threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns, leading North Carolina State past No. 22 West Virginia 23-7 in the Champs Sports Bowl on Tuesday night.
Wilson also had 41 yards rushing, Josh Czajkowski made three field goals and the Wolfpack (9-4) won nine games for only the second time in school history.
Geno Smith had 196 yards passing and an injured Noel Devine ran for 50 yards for the Mountaineers (9-4), whose five second-half turnovers ended any hopes of a cheerful send off for some of Bill Stewart’s staff.
Stewart is being slowly forced out as coach with Dana Holgorsen, Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator, taking over at the same position next year at West Virginia before moving into Stewart’s job in 2012. The game was current offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen’s last game.
Instead, this might have been a coronation for someone else.
Wilson, who earned the bowl’s MVP honor, may very well have played his last football game for the Wolfpack. He spent much of the summer playing second base in the Colorado Rockies’ minor-league system, and now he’ll have to decide whether to come back for his senior season or move on to a baseball career.
The Wolfpack can only hope he returns.
Wilson was 28 for 45 passing, had no interceptions and handled a West Virginia defense that been solid. It was the most points that the Mountaineers ï¿½ who never had given up more than 21 points ï¿½ allowed all season.
Wilson’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Mustafa Greene put the Wolfpack up 7-0 in the first quarter, and they never had trouble moving the ball after that. Scoring, at least early, was another matter.
N.C. State’s offense stalled several times after crossing into Mountaineers’ territory. The Wolfpack also faked a potential 43-yard field goal in the second quarter that was a disaster: Holder Corey Tedder threw an over-the-shoulder pass from his knees that skipped off the new field turf, kicker Czajkowski was hit amid the scramble and West Virginia took possession.
West Virginia capitalized when Smith threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Stedman Bailey, who reached over defensive back David Amerson to catch the ball and tie the game. The Wolfpack answered with another long drive before the half that ended with a 45-yard field goal by Czajkowski.
But the Mountaineers ended any chance of a comeback with late turnovers. Smith fumbled a handoff, Devine lost the ball after a hit by Amerson and then Smith was intercepted by Brandon Bishop.
As if that wasn’t enough, Jock Sanders fumbled a punt on the West Virginia 7-yard line that led to a 3-yard TD catch by Jarvis Williams to seal the victory. Smith also had another fumble in the final minutes.
The win put Wilson in elite company with only one other Wolfpack team: Only the 2002 team that went 11-3, led by Philip Rivers, had won at least nine games.