Thornton finished with 71 yards and his 29-yard scoring run came shortly before Dayes' 42-yard TD for N.C. State -- which scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams.
Maurice Shoemaker-Gilmore added a 38-yard touchdown run for Central Michigan -- the only Mid-American Conference team to beat new Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren during his successful two-year run at Northern Illinois.
But the Chippewas didn't advance further than the N.C. State 21 during the decisive first half. The Wolfpack finished by outrushing Central Michigan 239-94 and holding a 483-259 advantage in total yardage.
Thornton, who was suspended for the season opener following an offseason arrest, wasn't listed on the two-deep roster issued earlier in the week by coach Dave Doeren.
Still, he entered as the Wolfpack's most efficient rusher this season, taking his only carry of the year 21 yards for a touchdown against Clemson last week.
This time, his scoring burst up the middle with 11:08 left in the half started N.C. State's big second quarter and put the Wolfpack up 14-0.
Dayes then capped the Wolfpack's next drive with his long scoring run -- and at that point, they outrushed the Chippewas 174-3.
The Wolfpack's other touchdown in the return game came on Central Michigan's first possession after Dayes' touchdown.
Smith fielded Richie Hogan's punt at his own 33 and broke first toward the right sideline, then back across the field for the touchdown.
That gave the Wolfpack TDs in all three phases in the same game for the first time since a victory over Liberty in 2011, according to STATS.
Thomas then scored on a keeper with 3:46 left in the half to cap the Wolfpack's 28-point second quarter and put them up 35-0.
Green got things started for N.C. State with the team's first interception of the season on Central Michigan's second play from scrimmage, leaping to snag Rush's throw and running untouched into the end zone.
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