The plaque is prominently displayed in the lobby of N.C. State’s Murphy Football Center, inscribed with words Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren says he firmly believes in.
It says: “This is a blue-collar school … a work ethic, hands in the dirt school. It was founded by tough people. That is what this football team will be. — Head Coach Dave Doeren, November 29, 2014, after defeating UNC Chapel Hill 35-7.
Doeren made those comments in the aftermath of a big victory, after his first win over the Tar Heels, after a game at Kenan Stadium in which the Pack led 35-0 until the final minutes, when Doeren was working as hard on the sideline as he was in the first quarter.
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Doeren also spoke of an encounter at a dry cleaner’s with a North Carolina fan who he said was wearing a “fancy belt and the light blue shirt with the collar up.” He noted the gift shop at the Wolfpack’s team hotel had only UNC sports paraphernalia and how he could now say, “Get that stuff out of there.”
Was Doeren being a bit too chesty about a big win over the Pack’s big rivals and UNC coach Larry Fedora? More so, does he now regret saying so much with North Carolina coming to Carter-Finley Stadium this week with a 10-1 record, ranked 11th nationally, having clinched the Coastal Division?
“No, I don’t think so,” Doeren said Monday. “I think the year before (Fedora) said what he said. I mean, you win the game you can say whatever you want. That’s what a rivalry game is.
“In his press conference he can say what he wants to say. In mine, I can say what I want to say. I didn’t lie about anything. That’s what I want our program to be. I believe in that.”
Doeren noted the Pack ran the ball for 300-plus yards against UNC last November, adding, “That says something about you. That’s who we want to be.”
It has nothing to do with what they (UNC) are over there. I’m talking about what I want to be here.
NC State coach Dave Doeren
The final total was 388 yards rushing for N.C. State, including 167 by quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who ran for one touchdown and passed for three more.
But that was last year. The Tar Heels’ defensive coordinator, Gene Chizik, has brought structure, discipline and better fundamentals to the defense as well as instilling confidence.
While most of UNC’s defensive statistics look measurably better – notably points allowed per game, 19.5 – the one that certainly has the attention of the NCSU staff is rushing yards allowed per game. The Tar Heels have given up 199.2 yards a game, 101st among Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
The Pack rushed for 276 yards Saturday in thumping Syracuse 42-29 as Reggie Gallaspy ran for 81 yards, Dakwa Nichols 78 and Nyheim Hines 70, gashing the Orange defense.
“That, to me, is what we want to be around here,” Doeren said. “We want to be about tough, playing hard, hitting, playing with passion.”
Doeren said he has been around a lot of N.C. State fans, saying, “I know what they want and they want tough kids who represent the program well.”
Doeren quickly added, “It has nothing to do with what they are over there. I’m talking about what I want to be here.”
Toughness was debated in the days leading up to the State-Carolina game last year “over there,” in Chapel Hill. Wolfpack safety Hakim Jones, in talking about UNC quarterback Marquise Williams, said he would “basically almost quit” if hit hard enough and long enough.
Williams was knocked out of the game with a leg injury in the second half. He also is back for another shot at the Pack.
Nothing inflammatory was said Monday. Doeren said having Clemson and Florida State in the Atlantic Division made winning 10 games and a divisional title tougher. He said the Pack was chasing those two, looking to close the gap. Point made.
Tight end Benson Browne and cornerback Juston Burris, both graduate students, were on their best behavior, saying the right things. No Twitter blowups this year.
Browne was a redshirt freshman in 2011, when the Pack won its fifth straight over UNC under former coach Tom O’Brien. As a sophomore, he was in Kenan Stadium when Gio Bernard’s late punt return won for the Heels – “That burns a hole in my heart every time I think about it,” Browne said.
The Pack lost at Carter-Finley 27-19 in 2013, Doeren’s first year as coach.
“It’s been a rollercoaster and I want to end it up the right way,” said Browne, one of 10 seniors and graduates to be honored Saturday on Senior Day. “We’re going to leave it all out there – everything.”
“We’re going to play our good ‘ol Wolfpack football. Play physical. That’s one thing they can count on, is us being physical.”