North Carolina State's Bryan Underwood (80) is congratulated by Camden Wentz (53) and Andrew Wallace (64) following Underwood's touchdown against South Alabama during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Gerry Broome

North Carolina State's Bryan Underwood (80) is congratulated by Camden Wentz (53) and Andrew Wallace (64) following Underwood's touchdown against South Alabama during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Wolfpack finds rhythm in rout of South Alabama

By Justin Hite

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RALEIGH – Playing a lower division team is one of those necessary evils that most major conference teams have to go through at least once early in the season.

Often, more harm than good can come from the game.

For N.C. State, Saturday’s home opener was more of a necessary adjustment than anything else.

Led by quarterback Mike Glennon, who started 11-for-12 for 127 yards and two touchdowns on the Wolfpack’s first two drives, N.C. State figured out its offensive rhythm ­– even if it was against one of those lesser programs.

By halftime, the Wolfpack could relax and cruise to a 31-7 victory inside Carter-Finley Stadium.

“There was a lot of evidence out there that there weren’t many mistakes,” Glennon said. “We showed what our offense can do when 11 guys execute properly.”

Glennon, who struggled in the first two games of the season, finished 24-for-34 for 257 yards and three touchdowns after going 4-for-4 on third down and hitting six different receivers during the Wolfpack’s first two drives.

“We did a better job of protecting him, we did a better job of running routes,” coach Tom O’Brien said of Glennon’s quick start. “People were where they’re supposed to be and there was better timing. … He got off to a good start.”

But Glennon wasn’t the only member of the Wolfpack who was aided by a tune-up game. The defense forced two turnovers in the first half – both of which led to touchdowns – and recorded seven sacks. The running game without starter Mustafa Greene, who was suspended for the game and still will remain on the team, gained 127 yards and scored once.

Receivers Rashard Smith and Quintin Payton each caught the first touchdowns of their careers in the first half as N.C. State (2-1) took a 28-point halftime lead.

“We knew this was going to be a game where our passing game was going to need to find a rhythm,” Glennon said. “Getting in a rhythm, it was going to be a high completion kind of game. Our offense executed well those first two series and kind of set the tone for the whole game.”

Last year, N.C. State beat South Alabama (1-2) in the first loss in program history for the Jaguars. The first convincing victory of the year for N.C. State, which will play two of its next three games at home, was by far more important than last year’s double-digit victory.

After scoring just four touchdowns in the previous two games, N.C. State scored four times in the first half.

The Wolfpack went from an embarrassing Week 1 loss to a relieving Week 2 victory and concluded with a confidence-building Week 3 shellacking of a lesser opponent.

“We were confident after winning last week. That was a tough game,” O’Brien said. “But it’s good to come home and play a good football game in front of the fans.”

Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or jhite@rmtelegram.com

NCAA Basketball