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Knight exploding into kick return role for Wolfpack

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Zonovan Knight showed against Miami that he doesn’t always need a complete pair of shoes to reach the end zone. He also can make things happen when N.C. State’s offense is not on the field.

The Southern Nash High alum continues to be a weapon for the Wolfpack. His one-yard romp to paydirt with 7:17 left in the third quarter on Nov. 6 happened after losing a shoe on the previous play.

N.C. State was in no mood to slow down once the football neared the end zone.

“On the play prior, my shoe came off,” Knight explained. “They wanted to run tempo, and I tried to slide it on real quick, but (N.C. State quarterback) Bailey (Hockman) got set and said, ‘Hurry up! Hurry up!’ I tossed it and lined up. I was worried about slipping because it was a little wet, but everything worked out.”

As remarkable as a score with one shoe is, Knight then followed that up with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown less than three minutes later.

As on his one-yard run earlier in the third quarter, there was some question about whether he made the right decision on the play. When Miami didn’t bring enough energy on the kickoff, Knight made the Hurricanes pay.

“Honestly, you could tell a lot of people let off,” Knight said. “I really shouldn’t have brought it out because it was in the end zone. We normally let those go.”

After he shocked the Hurricanes with his decision to return the kickoff; he still had issues to overcome.

“When I did bring it out, I didn’t even run the correct turn,” Knight said. “It was all vision and luck, honestly.”

While N.C. State couldn’t hold on to the lead, Knight’s spectacular return did earn him the ACC Specialist of the Week award.

“That is a great feeling because they had me listed as the third-string return guy (that) week,” Knight said of the kickoff return. “Just getting out there and making a play like that was great for my confidence and for the team confidence considering how close the game was.”

Moving forward, expect Knight to continue being utilized in different ways, although the Wolfpack would prefer him to keep his shoe on.

“We’re excited that Bam has kind of emerged in that role,” N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren said. “We’ve been searching a little bit. We had Ricky (Person) back there, we had Jordan Houston back there. Bam goes back there and changes the momentum of a game. So obviously, we are going to leave him back there and let him work.”

Doeren also trusts Knight to make plays if he decides the opening is there on the kickoff return.

“Anything in the middle of the field, as long as they can catch it going forward, we are pretty good with those guys bringing that out of the end zone,” Doeren said. “Obviously, we wouldn’t want to bring it out of the back of the end zone, but if they can catch it within where the front of your lettering would be in the end zone, we’re going to bring it out if they’re going forward.”

Rob McLamb of Inside Pack Sports has covered N.C. State athletics and recruiting since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @RobMcLamb.