ORLANDO, Fla. -- The situation at halftime for West Virginia had to seem pretty familiar. For the fifth time in 13 football games this season, the offense was entering the locker room having scored 10 points or fewer.
There were differences Tuesday night and causes for concern, most notable among them being the game was the Champs Sports Bowl, and the opponent was an offensively capable team that had in the first half nearly matched what other teams averaged in a game against the defense.
The end felt similar, too, with one major exception.
North Carolina State did to WVU what no other opponent had this season. The Wolfpack defeated the 22nd-ranked and error-riddled Mountaineers, 23-7.
N.C. State (9-4) became the first opponent to score more than 21 points against WVU (9-4), which was the only Football Bowl Subdivision team that hadn't allowed more than that in a game this season.
"We weren't quite good enough," WVU linebacker J.T. Thomas said. "I saw a little rust on the defense and I think that comes from not being able to get enough game reps."
Still, for a majority of the game, the Wolfpack didn't do anything memorable that went toward the outcome. Their highlight plays were a botched fake field goal in the second quarter and an acrobatic interception in the fourth quarter.
They just had a lot of help from WVU before 48,962 spectators at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.
The Mountaineers missed two field goals and committed a season-high five turnovers. All five came in the second half. Three were in their own territory and two preceded Wolfpack scores.
"When you think about a game with two great defenses, it comes down to other things," WVU safety Sidney Glover said. "It's not just how the defense plays. It comes down to the kicking game, to special teams, to turnovers. I guess the ball bounced their way and they got more than we did."
The end arrived late, with 5:02 remaining. Jock Sanders fumbled a punt he tried to field with a fair catch at his own 7-yard line. Three plays later, N.C. State had its most exciting play of the game.
On third-and-goal, junior quarterback Russell Wilson slipped out of the reach of a diving Bruce Irvin and rolled right. He faked Thomas in the open field, going down to the turf and keeping himself up with one hand, before floating a pass back to the left into the middle of the end zone to Jarvis Williams for a touchdown and the game's final score.
Wilson was named the bowl's MVP.
WVU finished the season with 28 turnovers, the most since 2001.
That team went 3-8 and had 32 turnovers. The Mountaineers finished minus-6 in turnover margin this season and lost the turnover battle in seven games, where they were 4-3.
"My hat goes off to N.C. State," West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith said. "They have a great defense, which we knew all along, but we also have an incredible confidence in ourselves on offense. We feel like no one can stop us if we don't stop ourselves, which is what we did (Tuesday)."
Tavon Austin lost a fumble at his 26-yard line early in the third quarter and the Wolfpack kicked a 38-yard field goal for a 13-7 lead. WVU's Jock Sanders returned the kickoff 60 yards, but after a first-and-10 at State's 34, the Mountaineer offense turned the ball over on downs on fourth-and-10.
"That was big right there," WVU Coach Bill Stewart said. "It's 13-7, and if we get points right there, who knows?"
The Wolfpack kicked another field goal and the offenses traded punts before WVU took over at its own 8. Noel Devine ran 28 yards on first down, but lost a fumble.