CARTER-FINLEY STADIUM/RALIEGH — "N.C. State here we go," a man dressed all in red shouted as he exited Carter-Finley Stadium, his team having just defeated its bitter rival for the third straight year. "TOB (Tom O'Brien) 3-0. Here we go. Butch Davis, what do you have?"
"Stop, you're making a spectacle," his girlfriend told him sharply.
"But this is all we've got," he sheepishly replied.
He's right, N.C. State's season is done, and Davis' team now moves on to a yet-to-be-determined bowl game, but what they've got matters one heck of a lot. Ask O'Brien who said after the game this was his most challenging season in a three decades as a college coach. Or talk to one of the nine seniors on the team who end their careers victorious. Sure, on its face this 28-27 win that closed the books on a 5-7 season might not seem like a big deal, but boy is it.
"We could play this team in the McDonald's parking lot and it would be a bowl game," wide receiver Owen Spencer said.
The odds seemed long at halftime. UNC had dominated offensively scoring touchdowns of 35, 40 and 70 yards on the way to a 24-14 lead. The Wolfpack's much-maligned defense turned things around in the second frame, and quarterback Russell WIlson was able to create big plays of his own, twice finding Spencer deep over the middle for scores. Senior Alan-Michael Cash blocked a Casey Barth 38-yard field goal attempt with 4:45 to play and N.C. State was able to pick up key first downs before giving the ball back to Yates on the 28-yard line with just 23 seconds to play. Yates overthrow Greg Little on a corner route, and Clem Johnson picked the ball to seal the win.
CARTER-FINLEY STADIUM/RALEIGH — Someone turned on the offensive switch at Carter-Finely Stadium in the second quarter. After a first stanza that saw N.C. State go three and out on all three possessions and UNC come away with a field goal and a turnover in two red zone trips, the teams combined for five touchdowns to close out the half. UNC leads 24-14 at the half.
Tar Heel quarterback T.J. Yates found freshman wideout Jherani Boyd for a 35-yard strike on the opening play of the second quarter, and the floodgates opened.
Key series of the half With the Wolfpack trailing 17-7, Russell Wilson led his team on an 11-play 77 yard touchdown drive capped off by a 14-yard toss to prolific target Jarvis Williams. He had help dressed in Carolina blue (well, kind of, UNC is wearing white jerseys and navy blue pants that border on Duke colors to some). Two pass interference penalties, one on Charles Brown and one on Kendric Burney and an unnecessary roughness call on defensive end Michael McAdoo gave N.C. State 44 free yards. The toss to Williams, his 11th TD grab on the year, ate up 4:50 on the clock and stymied a UNC offense that's looked the best it has played in weeks.
Key stats of the half Yates has been an efficient 6 for 8 for 201 yards and two touchdowns, both to Boyd, who has 100 yards receiving on those two catches (insert Cris Carter all he does is catch touchdowns reference here). Most telling though is that UNC has 313 yards of total offense to N.C. State's dyslexic 113 yards.
What to watch for in the second half N.C. State needs to sure up its secondary, which has been torched for three long scores. Tom O'Brien's club must feel lucky to only be down a touchdown given the total yards difference. Look for them to try to establish the run (one yard per carry so far) and keep the ball away from Yates.
N.C. Central's football season has been over for nearly a week now, and for the second straight season Mose Rison's club finished with a 4-7 record.
After a tough start in which the Eagles went 0-6 with road defeats to heavily favored Liberty, Appalachian State and Duke, the third-year head coach had set a goal of winning the last five games to finish 5-6. And because of a road defeat at Old Dominion in the ninth game of the season, it didn't happen.
But what kind of shape is the NCCU program in right now? Reality says it's pretty good.
N.C. Central visits a big-time opponent that has been having some struggles today.
The Eagles (1-5) will make their first visit to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, taking on Iowa (1-4) in a men's basketball game to be shown live at 1:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.
Today's contest will be NCCU's fourth on an opponent's home court in its first season under LeVelle Moton (pictured).
C.J. Wilkerson is the Eagles' leading scorer.
NCCU will also visit Air Force on Wednesday night before returning home on Dec. 5 against Carver Bible College, one of four non-Division I opponents on the Eagles' schedule.
Manny Legace sat in the deserted weight room as his teammates scurried to pack their things for a late night trip to Buffalo, staring past his still-padded legs and down at the floor, looking utterly shell shocked.
After Friday’s 6-4 loss to the Thrashers, surely the 14,463 fans in attendance can relate, if not sympathize.
Freshly home after successfully managing to escape into December without a win on the road, the ‘Canes dropped another humiliating game to the Atlanta Thrashers after sitting pretty on a 4-1 lead in the third period. Allowing a three-goal comeback in only a 2:39-minute span sunk the ‘Canes after they put together a solid two periods and an impressive lead.
Legace faced the team that cut him in training camp for the first time and had a good showing…for the first 46 minutes, that is. It seemed improbable that the ‘Canes could have such a dramatic meltdown, even without Legace at the top of his game. They were quick, executed well and had all the momentum going into the latter stages of the game.
But after handing Atlanta a five-goal third period, that was the reality. A cold start has now given way to a frigid middle stanza, and this loss could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It goes without saying that if the ‘Canes continue to play like this, they will not be able to pick themselves up out of the Eastern Conference basement.
According to Matt Cullen, this is as bad as it gets.
“I can’t think of anything tougher than this one,” Cullen said.
It didn’t start that way, though. Cole deflected a shot past Ondrej Pavelec to get things rolling midway through the first period. Eric Staal was awarded the secondary, giving him assists in consecutive since his activation from injured reserve.
N.C. State will play in the championship game of Vanderbilt's tournament, and Duke finished a sweep of its two games in Cancun.
But a slow start sealed N.C. Central's fate at George Mason in the other women's basketball game involving the Triangle's Division I schools on Friday.
Duke's Jasmine Thomas (pictured) had the best game of the night, producing her first career triple-double in the Blue Devils' 74-43 win over Marquette.
Freshman Marissa Kastanek led all scorers with 16 points, while Lucy Ellison added career highs of 15 points and 15 rebounds as the Wolfpack got past Northwestern State 76-67 in the first round of the Vanderbilt Thanksgiving Tournament at Memorial Gym.
North Carolina (8-3) at N.C. State(4-7)
[12 p.m., Nov. 28, Carter-Finley Stadium]
Televised by ESPN2
A win by either team Saturday won't have any serious implications on the season as UNC has secured a bowl berth and N.C. State will be sitting at home over the holidays. But a win could go a long way in determining the future for each program.
State faces the uncomfortable offseason questions that come after a disappointing year. After being considered a sleeper in the Atlantic Division with all-ACC caliber quarterback Russell Wilson, the Wolfpack has managed to win exactly one league game with one left to play.
UNC, meanwhile, recovered from losing three straight ACC games with a four-game winning streak, including wins against two ranked teams (Virginia Tech and Miami).
N.C. State will look to extend its winning streak to four games, while N.C. Central is still looking for its first win of the season in women's basketball action tonight.
The Wolfpack (4-1) will face off with Northwestern State (2-2) in the Vanderbilt Thanksgiving Tournament, while the Eagles (0-4) visit George Mason (2-2) for the first meeting between the two schools.
Duke is still at the Caribbean Challenge in Cancun, and will take on Marquette tonight.
Bonae Holston (pictured) is N.C. State's scoring leader. The Wolfpack will play either host Vanderbilt or Austin Peay on Saturday.
Duke's senior class won't be going to a bowl game, but the Blue Devils definitely have a chance to accomplish something special on Saturday.
The visitor to Wallace Wade Stadium at 1:30 won't be multiple arch-rival UNC, since the ACC decided it would rather have the Tar Heels end the season with N.C. State this time.
Instead coming in is Wake Forest (4-7, 2-5 ACC), the Blue Devils' permanent cross-divisional foe from the Atlantic Division.
Wake has dominated the series against the Blue Devils (5-6, 3-4) in recent years, winning the last nine games.
But if Duke can put together a win in front of the home fans, it will mark the Blue Devils' first non-losing season since 1994.
Jasmine Thomas scored 20 points, leading the No. 10 Blue Devils to a 70-47 rout of Western Kentucky on the first night of the Caribbean Challenge in Cancun.
Thomas had 12 first-half points for the Blue Devils (4-1), going 3-for-4 from 3-point range over the first 20 minutes.
Duke's biggest lead in the second half was 29 points.
Freshman Allison Vernerey added 10 points for the Blue Devils, while Joy Cheek chipped in nine points and eight rebounds.
Courtney Clifton had 11 points and Lashay Davis 10 for WKU (3-1), which had lost to Duke by only 59-56 in Bowling Green last season.
Duke will face Marquette on Friday at 7:30 p.m. to conclude its play in the Challenge.