Commentary

Tudor: Pack fans haven’t been so giddy in years

Football, basketball optimism and UNC’s misery a rare mix for Pack

ctudor@newsobserver.comAugust 26, 2012 

N.C. State's Mike Glennon (8) passes in front of the pressure of Liberty's Brent Vinson (8) during the first half of N.C. State's game against Liberty Saturday September 3, 2011, at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.

ETHAN HYMAN — ehyman@newsobserver.com

The football team is coming off a 4-4 conference record, hasn’t won an ACC championship since 1979, will have to replace its two best defensive players and opens the season against a SEC opponent that once won a BCS national title.

The basketball team went 9-7 in the ACC in 2011-12, stumbled into a late-season four-game losing streak and probably was among the last three or four teams to squeeze out an NCAA tournament bid.

And yet, these are downright giddy times for N.C. State fans.

I think you have to go all the way back to the 1970s – when Lou Holtz reinvigorated the football program and David Thompson turned the basketball team into an almost unbeatable force – to find a time when State spirits are as elevated as at the start of this football season.

There’s no question that much of this euphoria directly relates to UNC’s suffering.

So precarious is the atmosphere at North Carolina that the five-game football losing skid against the Pack amounts to little more than one link along chain of athletic, academic and image misery.

And if State fans need a cherry on top, there’s the fact that mighty Duke lost its NCAA tournament opener last season, while the upshot Wolfpack won its first two and threw a scare at Kansas.

After years of running in place, the school and its teams seem to be gaining traction at a favorable time for making impressive and sustainable strides.

But as State quarterback Mike Glennon said recently, this wave of energy is about to come full circle. It began with the football team’s late-season win over eventual league champ Clemson, followed by a miraculous comeback win over Maryland and then a solid bowl performance in a win over Louisville.

The basketball players took over from there, meshing late to develop into one of the toughest teams in the country.

Not to be outdone, the baseball team made a splash with big wins, big bats and the arrival of Carlos Rodon, the best freshman pitcher in the land.

“The whole school has a lot of momentum going right now,” Glennon said. “Everybody’s got a feeling that anything’s possible.”

But a loss to Tennessee in Friday’s opener at Atlanta would dent the karma and a one-sided loss would take a big slice out of the buoyancy.

The Volunteers, 1-7 in the SEC and 5-7 overall in 2011, are a slight favorite and third-year coach Derek Dooley definitely needs a win more than State’s Tom O’Brien.

Long term, however, the Pack would benefit enormously from a win. With upcoming games against Connecticut, South Alabama, The Citadel and (at) Miami, it’s easy to envision a scenario in which State would carry a 5-0 record and top-20 national ranking into October.

Should all of that fall into place, an Oct. 6 game in Raleigh against Florida State would arrive with the Pack’s players and fans in a full-blown crescendo.

Tudor: 919-829-8946

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