RALEIGH — Theres a list of the years of N.C. States bowl trips in the north end zone of Carter-Finley Stadium.
Wolfpack coach Tom OBrien said it was the teams goal to add 2012 to the red banner with 26 years.
Thats what N.C. State did with its 37-6 home win over Wake Forest on Saturday, its sixth of the season and first in three weeks.
A week after nothing went right for the Wolfpack (6-4, 3-3 ACC) in a disastrous loss to Virginia, everything came up red-and-white on Saturday.
The Deacons (5-5, 3-5 ACC) will have to beat either No. 4 Notre Dame next week or Vanderbilt at home in the regular-season finale to clinch its bowl bid.
OBrien, who has led the Pack to three straight bowl games and four in five years, challenged his players before the game.
We were at a crossroads. Which road are you going to take? OBrien asked to his team. The road that leads to the bowl game or the road that doesnt lead to a bowl game?
With renewed focus, an improved running game and defense, the Wolfpack provided a resounding answer for the sixth-year coach.
Freshman running back Shadrach Thornton ran for 110 yards and N.C. States defense held Wake to just 16 rushing yards. It kept receiver Michael Campanaro to just 14 yards.
Only a trick play, a touchdown pass by Campanaro, kept the Deacs from getting shut out in their 13th loss in the past 14 games in Raleigh. Apropos of Wakes day, kicker Chad Hedlund missed the only extra point.
States defense sacked Wake quarterback Tanner Price (18-33, 113 yards) five times and had an interception.
Tanner didnt play really well tonight, Wake coach Jim Grobe said. Its not fair, but Tanner cant play average. If he plays average, we cant win.
The Pack, which improved to 3-0 against Atlantic Division, rebounded from two straight ACC losses by getting its running game going. After rushing for a season-low 19 yards last week against Virginia, State finished with 170 on 51 attempts.
Thornton carried 27 times for 110 yards, his second 100-yard game of the season and first for the Wolfpack since the Miami game on Sept. 29.
Our running backs did a great job, but youve got give our line a lot of credit, N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon said. Those holes were really big.
OBrien noted the importance of the fast start for the Wolfpack. The first quarter rule held true to form for N.C. State, which led 17-0 after the first 15 minutes. The Wolfpack is 6-0 this season when it gives up 7 points or less in the first quarter, and 0-4 when it gives up more.
Glennon threw for a touchdown and Tony Creecy rushed for one in the first quarter. Kicker Niklas Sade added a 38-yard field goal.
Tobais Palmer returned the second-half kickoff 100 yards to extend N.C. States lead to 24-6.
Glennon (25-41, 258 yards) found tight end Asa Watson for his second touchdown pass, a 26-yarder in the third quarter.
Sade added field goals of 49 and 35 yards in the second half to pad States lead and clinch a spot in the ACCs bowl order.
N.C. State waited until the finale last season and trailed Maryland 41-14 before making the biggest comeback in school history to clinch a bowl bid.
Glennon, a fifth-year senior, preferred Saturdays path to the postseason.
You dont want to wait until the last game of the season and need a 27-point comeback to get the bowl, Glennon said. I think everyone on our team figured it would happen before now but we were able to do it and its a relief. But were not satisfied and want to get these last two (games).