The NC State Wolfpack (8-3, 5-2) traveled up I-40 to meet the rival UNC Tar Heels (6-5, 3-4) and walked away with a 29-25 win at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The 100th playing of this storied rivalry game included all aspects of an intense and gritty confrontation between both teams as it went down to the wire. The intensity of the rivalry particularly came to light late in the third quarter with the Tar Heels leading 19-10 when Russell Wilson’s pass into the end zone was tipped and landed in the hands of Owen Spencer narrowing the score, but resulted in an ensuing physical altercation between the Tar Heels’ Kevin Reddick and the Pack’s Jarvis Williams that resulted in ejections for both of them. That point in the game provided a notable change in momentum that the Wolfpack took advantage of heading into the fourth quarter.
Fourth win in a row
It is challenging to predict a winner when these two programs meet due to the nature of their rivalry, and particularly so on the football field. With such an eventful year for the UNC football team still undergoing an NCAA investigation and with the excitement and expecations that NC State has in continuing its successful season, yesterday’s finish was fitting. After having won the three previous games between these teams, a fourth straight victory for the Wolfpack was not only important to sustain an exceptional period of dominance in the rivalry, but to also keep the focus on winning another game to earn a birth into the ACC Championship game. Thus, trailing 19-17 entering the fourth quarter of play, the Wolfpack had to earn its 29-25 victory as the defense had to keep the Tar Heels from trying to break the losing streak against the Wolfpack.
From the coaches point of view, NC State’s Tom O’Brien is now 4-0 over North Carolina’s Butch Davis, winning all four games that they have coached against one another since they both took over the helm of their respective programs. The Wolfpack’s quarterback, Russell Wilson, finished the game 15-29, throwing for 169 yards and two touchdowns while the Tar Heels’ T.J. Yates had a spectacular day throwing for 411 yards (33-44) and two touchdowns and setting the single-season and career passing yardage records for the Tar Heels in the losing effort. On the defensive end, the Wolfpack’s Earl Wolff and Audie Cole finished the game with 13 and 12 tackles respectively including a sack apiece, and the Tar Heels’ Donte Paige-Moss led the defense with 10 tackles and two sacks on the other side of the field.
Wolfpack eyes ACC Championship bid
With the win over the Tar Heels, NC State holds its fate in its hands in earning a place in the ACC Championship game as Atlantic Division champions. The Wolfpack must win its next and final game at Maryland (7-4, 4-3) as first place Florida State (8-3, 6-2) has completed its ACC schedule and the loss to the Wolfpack earlier this season would eliminate the Seminoles from winning the division should NC State beat Maryland. The Wolfpack’s O’Brien made it known what his team’s intentions are as he stated, “it’s great to win eight games, but the best thing about it is that we now have a chance to win nine. That’s where we have to go from here. We don’t want to stop at eight.”
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