RALEIGH — N.C. State's locker room after Saturday's 13-0 win against North Carolina was as loud as quarterback Mike Glennon, a fourth-year junior, can remember it ever being.
Even coach Tom O'Brien gave the jubilant players an "extra hour," along with their normally allotted 24 hours, to celebrate the team's fifth consecutive win against the Tar Heels and its first shutout in the rivalry in 51 years.
"That's their big bonus," O'Brien said.
But Glennon pumped the brakes on the party to point out that the Wolfpack (5-4, 2-3 ACC) still has three games to play and needs two more wins to get back to a bowl game.
"We're in a better position than we were, but we have three games left," Glennon said. "This definitely helps."
As good as N.C. State has been against the Tar Heels, the Wolfpack has been prone to a "Carolina hangover" under O'Brien.
With the Atlantic Division title on the line last year, N.C. State followed an emotional 29-25 win in Chapel Hill with a confounding 38-31 loss at Maryland.
In need of one win for a bowl game after a 31-27 home win against the Tar Heels in 2007, N.C. State lost at Wake Forest and then got shut out at home by Maryland.
On paper, N.C. State has winnable games against the two worst teams in the ACC, record-wise, left on the schedule. The Wolfpack will go to Boston College (2-7) on Saturday and will get Maryland (2-7) at home on Nov. 26. In between, No. 9 Clemson (8-1) will come to Carter-Finley Stadium on Nov. 19.
Although O'Brienis5-0 against North Carolina, he's a combined 2-10 against the remaining opponents.
He also is winless in 12 division road games with the Wolfpack. "I'm already worried about Boston College," O'Brien said.
N.C. State does have plenty to build on from Saturday's win. The defense, led by linebackers Audie Cole and Terrell Manning, posted its best performance of the season, holding North Carolina to 165 total yards with four sacks and three turnovers.
With five minutes left in the first half, N.C. State had more points (10), than North Carolina's offense had yards (9).
The Tar Heels, with one of the best offensive lines in the league, finished with only 3 rushing yards.
N.C. State's defense was supposed to be the team's forte before the season, but as far back as the season opener against Liberty, before the injuries lit a match to the preseason depth chart, it hadn't been able to pressure the quarterback or tackle at the point of attack the way it did on Saturday.
The return of defensive tackles J.R. Sweezy, who missed the first four games of the season with a foot injury, and Thomas Teal, who missed the past seven games with a foot injury, helped keep blockers off Manning, who had 11 tackles and a sack, and off Cole, who had seven tackles and a sack. Younger linemen Art Norman and T.Y. McGill also are playing at a higher level because they're able to play fewer snaps.
"As long as we have all our guys, I feel like we have one of the best teams out there," Manning said.
Glennon, who was 16-of-33 for 161 yards with an interception and the game's only touchdown, struggled in the passing game for the second week in a row, but the offensive line did its best job run-blocking all season. James Washington ran for 110 yards on 27 carries.
"We did enough offensively to win this type of football game," O'Brien said.
And that's what N.C. State is focused on going forward: putting the North Carolina win behind it and making back-to-back bowl trips for the first time since Philip Rivers left eight years ago.