Duke won three road games in the eight years before David Cutcliffe was hired.
The Blue Devils left Troy last Saturday with a 34-17 win, their six straight on the road. Suddenly, Duke can’t lose on the road.
If Duke can do it, so can N.C. State, at least that’s what the Wolfpack needs to believe with its first road game of the season on Saturday at South Florida.
N.C. State has not been good on the road since Philip Rivers was its quarterback. The Wolfpack hasn’t had a winning record on the road since 2002.
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Since then, the Wolfpack has had three winless road seasons (2006, ’09 and ’13). Dave Doeren was hired, in part, to fix the Wolfpack’s road woes.
In the past five years, only Wake Forest has lost more road games (22) than N.C. State (18), and no ACC team has fewer road wins (6).
With Saturday’s win, Duke – 3-41 on the road from 2000 to ’07 – is 13-14 in true road games since the start of the ’09 season. The Blue Devils went 5-0 on the road last season.
N.C. State is 6-18 on the road since the start of the ’09 season, compared to 24-11 at home. The Wolfpack has had multiple issues away from Carter-Finley Stadium, including, but not limited to, a lack of sweet alternate uniforms and hype stadium music, as famously noted in 2011 by receiver T.J. Graham after a road loss to Boston College.
Sartorial and music selections aside, N.C. State has had real problems on the road. Since ’09, the Wolfpack has for the most part: turned the ball over more on the road, been penalized more and scored fewer points.
Jarvis Byrd, a sixth-year senior who has lived through his share of road trips, says there is a common thread.
“The guys ain’t focused,” Byrd said. “You just have to execute the game plan and focus.”
Doeren has preached the same message. So far, N.C. State has excelled at avoiding mistakes. In two home games, the Wolfpack has one turnover (an interception) and five penalties (four in the first game) in two games.
“You're going to be in every game if you play like that,” Doeren said. “We have to play like that on the road.”
That’s the definition of not beating yourself, and given N.C. State’s margin of error in the talent department, that’s important.
As Doeren said, you have to control what you can control. N.C. State had a minus-2 turnover margin in four road games last season, compared to plus-2 in eight home games. The Wolfpack averaged 17.8 points per game on the road, compared to 25.4 at home.
Last year’s Wolfpack did average more penalty yardage at home (45.4) than on the road (39.3), which was the only time in a five-year span that happened.
The 2012 N.C. State team, which was 2-3 on the road, had a turnover split of plus-1 (home), minus-10 (road) and a penalty split of 37.7 (home), 61.4 (road).
In 2011, N.C. State had an even wider home-road gap between turnovers (plus-16 to minus-2) and scoring (36.3 to 18.3).
One element that would help N.C. State on the road is the start time. The Wolfpack is 12-4 since 2007 in games that start after 6 p.m., including a 1-1 record on the road.
In early games (before 1 p.m.), N.C. State is 3-8 and in midday games (between 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.), the Pack is just 2-9.
In its last nonconference trip to the state of Florida, N.C. State beat Central Florida, 28-21 in a game that started at 7:30 p.m.
And there’s the Wolfpack’s chicken-egg dilemma. To get on primetime TV you have to be a better program and to be a better program, you have to be able to win on the road.