More precisely, a stretch of less than 12 hours.
But Oct. 6, 2012, may have been the best day for college football in the Triangle since the heyday of black & white TV and 45 rpm records.
People who keep up on a daily basis knew it was going to be an attention-grabbing day up front, with UNC hosting Virginia Tech, Duke entertaining Virginia and N.C. State welcoming No. 3 Florida State. Not to mention that N.C. Central was up in Indianapolis to take on traditional MEAC power South Carolina State in the Circle City Classic at Lucas Oil Stadium.
But what was about to unfold was pretty hard to predict.
In a parallel universe, I could have been sitting here typing about how Virginia Tech dismissed the Tar Heels to make the Hokies 14-0 in the state since the school joined the ACC.
And how the naysayers who said NCCU should never have made the jump to Division I (FCS) in the first place got some fresh ammunition after the Eagles got their heads handed to them by the mighty Bulldogs.
And how Duke’s dreams of somehow coming up with six wins to become eligible for a bowl are all up in smoke. Again.
And how N.C. State fans — like the student who assured me, deadpan, on Friday that “We’re going to shock the world” — were just being silly when they said their team had a chance to derail the Seminoles’ national championship plans.
But that’s not what I’m writing.
Four times the Carolina RailHawks faced the Tampa Bay Rowdies during the 2012 NASL regular season, and four times the teams walked off the pitch after 90 minutes having finished where they started: a tie score. That’s not to say there were not incidents of supremacy exercised by one side or the other. The Rowdies outplayed the RailHawks during their 1-1 draw in St. Petersburg on April 18, outshooting Carolina 22-10. Tampa Bay outshot Carolina by 12 in Cary on August 4 but trailed by two goals going into the 86th minute, when two late strikes by the Rowdies rendered a 3-3 final. Still, most of the matchups felt like the nil-nil draw two weeks ago, during which neither side—comprised as they both were with a smattering of reservists—differentiated themselves.
Thus, it was a wonder to witness the rejuvenated RailHawks—unbeaten over their latest five matches and only one loss over their last nine—dominate the Rowdies during the opening half of Saturday’s clash at WakeMed Soccer Park, the first leg of the NASL playoff semifinals series that will conclude next week in Florida. Tampa Bay managed much of the possession but saw any venture towards goal thwarted by a suddenly stingy RailHawks defense, resulting in a meager two shots, neither on target. Meanwhile, the duo of Brian Shriver and Ty Shipalane combined for eight of Carolina’s nine first-half shots, launching numerous sorties into the attacking third.
However, style points don’t equal goals, and none of the RailHawks' frequent forays found the net. And despite eight more team chances in the second stanza, the game ended in another distinctive fashion: a victory…for the Rowdies, 2-1.
CARTER-FINLEY STADIUM/RALEIGH N.C. State gets the biggest challenge of all on a huge day for college football in the Triangle.
The Wolfpack (3-2, 0-1) is trying to lick some wounds after a heartbreaking 44-37 loss last week at Miami. It has been an upset every time as the Pack has beaten the Seminoles once in every two trips to Raleigh since 1998. But since
Tom O’Brien’s team won 28-24 here two years ago it’s supposed to be the Seminoles’ turn. FSU won 34-0 in Tallahassee last year.
It turns out to be not the Seminoles’ turn this time, as the Wolfpack scores all its points after halftime to win a 17-16 shocker.
Frank Beamer’s Hokies (3-2, 1-0 ACC), who have been at or near the top of the ACC ever since they were admitted, are 13-0 all-time in conference games played in North Carolina.
But the Tar Heels (3-2, 0-1) are on a pretty good roll. The opposition has been weak to be sure, but they haven’t yet allowed a touchdown at home. And with the Hokies having come back to earth a little bit this season, UNC is actually listed as a 5½-point favorite.
Oddly, there appear to be about 15,000 empty seats at kickoff for the “Carolina White Out” game, in which the home team will be in all white including helmets for the first time in over 40 seasons.
In a track meet of a game, the Tar Heels put on a better offensive show in prevailing 48-34.
All three local ACC teams are at pivotal points in their seasons, and all three have plenty to gain as they host conference opponents.
It’s also a very important day for N.C. Central, which will look to boost its MEAC credibility when the Eagles take on South Carolina State in the Circle City Classic in Indianapolis.
But back to that ACC schedule which is has the potential for clogging up a lot of local highways today.
UNC (3-2, 0-1 ACC) will open the card at 12:30, taking on Virginia Tech (3-2, 1-0) in a Kenan Stadium contest that will be shown on WRAL.
Then at 3 Duke (4-1, 1-0) will host one of its biggest games in a generation as Virginia (2-3, 0-1) comes to Wallace Wade Stadium in a game shown on Fox Sports Carolinas.
And at 8 N.C. State (3-2, 0-1) will look for an upset against No. 3 Florida State (5-0, 2-0) as the Seminoles look to keep their national title hopes alive in an ESPN2 game at Carter-Finley Stadium.
In a rarity in recent years, none of the local ACC teams has lost a home game yet. And it is already October.
NCCU (2-2, 1-0 MEAC) will face the Bulldogs (2-3, 1-1) at 2:30, with the Eagles the designated home team.