RALEIGH, N.C. -- Georgia Tech’s offense kept on scoring -- and the defense put up an important touchdown, too.
It all added up to the Yellow Jackets’ best start since they were national champions.
Orwin Smith rushed for three touchdowns and No. 21 Georgia Tech used a fourth-quarter flurry of points to beat N.C. State 45-35 on Saturday to extend its best start in more than 20 years.
Smith finished with 74 yards and scored on runs of 13, 9 and 3 yards. The Yellow Jackets (5-0, 2-0 ACC) were held to a season-low 413 total yards -- they entered averaging 630.5 yards per game -- but opened with five wins for the first time since their national championship season in 1990.
Never miss a local story.
“It means a lot, obviously (to be 5-0),” Smith said. “We just have to keep going, because in my mind, we haven’t played real competition to really test our skills. We’ve played great teams this year, but I’m looking forward to the tough games -- Virginia Tech and Clemson. Those really are going to make a statement on what this team is about.”
Georgia Tech led 21-0, briefly allowed N.C. State to make a game of it in the third quarter and pulled away with three touchdowns in a 2-minute, 22-second span of the fourth.
Mike Glennon was 20-of-29 for 163 yards with touchdown passes covering 9 yards to Jay Smith and 1 yard to Tyler Purvis for the Wolfpack (2-3, 0-2), who remained winless against FBS teams.
Tevin Washington completed just four passes for Georgia Tech -- but two were touchdowns, covering 9 yards to David Sims and 38 yards to Roddy Jones. He rushed for 43 yards but finished 4-of-12 for 117 yards through the air.
“I’ve got to do a better job of putting the ball in an area where receivers can make a play,” Washington said. “I think I was rushing myself. I was in a hurry a lot, when I had more time than I thought I did.”
Isaiah Johnson returned an interception 34 yards for a score to help the Yellow Jackets pull away.
James Washington, starting for the injured Curtis Underwood, rushed for a career-high 131 yards for the Wolfpack. His 46-yard touchdown run got N.C. State within a score, down 21-14.
That’s when Georgia Tech used a scoring flurry befitting the nation’s most productive offense to take a huge lead.
Smith closed a 13-play drive that demoralized N.C. State by taking a pitch from Tevin Washington around right end and diving across the goal line with 12:29 left.
On N.C. State’s next offensive play, Johnson picked off Glennon’s pass and returned it for a score, and Tevin Washington found Jones deep for a TD that made it 42-14 with 10:07 remaining.
N.C. State made things interesting with two touchdowns in the final 34 seconds, including Brandan Bishop’s 33-yard return of Synjyn Days’ fumble with 20 seconds left to finish the scoring.
The interception return hurt us. Penalties hurt us,” N.C. State linebacker Audie Cole said. “It’s hard to come back from those things, especially when they decided who wins and loses. We didn’t do the things today to stop (mistakes).”
Glennon made it 21-7 with 1:15 left in the half on his scoring pass to Smith, and N.C. State got within a score on Washington’s long touchdown run on its first play of the second half.
That came after it looked as though the Yellow Jackets would have their way against an N.C. State team that entered with one of the worst -- and most injury-riddled -- defenses in the ACC.
The Wolfpack, who started their third different combination of defensive linemen in five games, entered ranked 10th or worse in the ACC in three major defensive stat categories.
Smith capped each of Georgia Tech’s first two drives with touchdown runs. Four plays after Jemea Thomas took a snap on a fake punt and rumbled 27 yards for a first down, Smith took a pitch through the right side and ran 13 yards for a score.
Then, he made it 14-0 with 3:34 left in the first quarter when he took a handoff 9 yards for his second touchdown. At that point, he had touched the ball 27 times on offense this season -- and had scored seven touchdowns.
“We don’t come in just kind of focusing on me or the B-back,” Smith said. “I just happened to be the right A-back at the time the A-back was going to get the ball.”
Washington then made it 21-0 with his short flip to Sims on the first play of the second quarter, giving Georgia Tech a 173-30 advantage in total yards.
“We gave up some big plays,” N.C. State head coach Tom O’Brien said. “We made some plays of our own, though. We do a little better there offensively, and other things like (stopping) the fake punt, who knows where the game is in the fourth quarter.”