RALEIGH — As the resident old-timer on N.C. State’s defense, safety Jarvis Byrd is counted on for his memory and acquired wisdom.
Byrd, a fifth-year senior, has tried to share that knowledge with his teammates in advance of the Wolfpack’s trip to Wake Forest on Saturday.
Byrd remembers the first time he went to Wake Forest in 2009, when he was a true freshman and Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson was in the midst of a record-setting streak for attempts without an interception.
Wilson had gone 13 games and 364 attempts without an interception before the Wolfpack’s 30-24 loss at Wake Forest on Oct. 3, 2009. Wake’s defense picked off Wilson twice, once in the second quarter to end his NCAA-record streak at 379 attempts without an interception, and once in the end zone to seal the win in the fourth quarter.
“They ended that streak,” Byrd said, “and they beat us.”
That’s how it has been lately for N.C. State in Winston-Salem, and pretty much all points on the road in the Atlantic Division. The only streaks are bad ones, like the current losing streak to the Demon Deacons, who have won five straight at home against the Wolfpack since 2001.
Even first-year coach Dave Doeren, who has primarily been concerned with N.C. State’s future, has brought up the recent past in Winston-Salem.
“Had we only lost two in a row, I probably wouldn’t care about the streak,” Doeren said. “But to say seven of eight, you can’t ignore that.”
The woes in Winston-Salem are part of a bigger problem on the road, where the Pack has gone 2-17 in division play since 2005. A win at Maryland last year ended a 15-game losing streak in division road games.
Since the start of the 2010 season, N.C. State has a 19-4 record at home and an 8-12 mark away from Carter-Finley Stadium.
The road record and inconsistency is one reason N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow hired Doeren to replace Tom O’Brien last December. Doeren went 8-2 on the road the past two seasons with Northern Illinois.
“You can’t be a great program and lose your road games and win your home games,” Doeren said. “You have to be able to take your show on the road.”
Wilson, Mike Glennon and Philip Rivers all lost to the Deacs and coach Jim Grobe at BB&T Field since 2001. The Wolfpack has won only once there since 1995, a 17-14 win in Rivers’ sophomore season in 2001.
The Deacs could use some historical karma after losing 56-7 at Clemson last Saturday. Grobe is 13-3 at home against State, Duke and North Carolina (and 11-21 against the rest of the ACC).
Before Grobe was hired in 2001, Wake had historically been a walkover in ACC play. Of the original conference members, the Deacs have the fewest ACC wins (130) and the lowest winning percentage in conference play (31.5 percent).
Even with Wake’s recent dominance at home in the series, Byrd said there’s still a tendency to look at what happened the previous season. N.C. State beat Wake, 21-17 in 2008, and Byrd remembers the week of practice before the road game in ’09, the Wolfpack players thought they would win again.
“We took Wake Forest for granted,” Byrd said. “We know we can’t do that this time.”
Byrd also said the energy at BB&T Field has been an issue. With a capacity of 31,550, the stadium is the smallest venue in the ACC.
“The stadium’s dead compared to our stadium,” Byrd said. “Our guys did not have the same energy as we usually do at home.”
Bringing your own “juice,” Doeren said, is an integral part of winning on the road.
“You have to bring all of the energy,” Doeren said. “Your fans aren’t there to give it to you, so you have to play where all of that energy is bottled up inside of you.”