The full moon never materialized. It couldn’t find a way to poke through the gloom that hung over Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday. It was up there, somewhere, a promise unfulfilled.
So also will the record reflect this N.C. State football season: A good team that had greatness within its grasp but turned out to be merely good, a promise unfulfilled. And there’s nothing wrong with that, with being good enough to push Clemson to the final play. Greatness, though, has now officially eluded this group. The Atlantic Division is a now a bridge too far after Saturday’s 38-31 loss, although the Wolfpack can still win 10 games for the second time in school history.
Even without the moon, the Wolfpack still howled. Doeren opened his press conference demanding an investigation into what he said was an illegal laptop on the Clemson sideline, which somehow managed to break new ground among decades of N.C. State conspiracy theories. (A Clemson official said it belonged to the school’s social media team and was removed during the second half after a call from the ACC.)
Penalties went 6-3 against the Wolfpack, which left Doeren calling for consistency after Notre Dame’s defensive backs were allowed to play aggressively last week and N.C. State’s were not this week. Jaylen Samuels even declared afterward the Wolfpack knew the officials would be against them, which doesn’t suggest a championship focus in the locker room. There could be no arguing, however, the illegal shift call on fourth down on N.C. State’s final drive that turned a first-and-goal into a fourth-and 15; Ryan Finley’s late audible left the Wolfpack repositioning at the snap.
And the fans, some of whom pelted the officials with objects as they left the field, also howled over Doeren’s decision to punt on fourth-and-1 at midfield, down three points late in the third quarter after a Clemson touchdown. Doeren later explained that he felt it important to flip the field after the Wolfpack had been pinned in its own territory on four straight possessions, but got burned by an 89-yard Tavien Feaster touchdown run on the next play.
The Wolfpack can indulge in all the conspiracy theories it likes, but the reality is N.C. State had every chance to win that game but couldn’t make the plays it needed in the end. The officials had nothing to do with that, although having Nyheim Hines come into the game banged up and Samuels exit it that way didn’t help.
“I think we’re all in consensus right now that we didn’t make enough plays tonight,” defensive lineman Kentavius Street said. “Even though we didn’t have a few calls come our way, we didn’t make enough pays, and the better team won tonight. And that’s how we feel.”