N.C. State ran left, ran right then ran straight to bowl eligibility on Saturday.
With 362 rushing yards, its most in an ACC game in almost 30 years, the Wolfpack notched a convincing 42-13 home win over Wake Forest for its sixth win of the season.
The Wolfpack (6-5, 2-5 ACC) isn’t guaranteed a bowl spot with six wins, but with 38 bowl games there’s a good chance it will find a home in the postseason for the fourth time in five seasons.
N.C. State will get next Saturday off before finishing the regular season at North Carolina on Nov. 29.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“It’s fun to go into bye week bowl eligible,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said. “Give the guys a little time to heal up and then get ready for the crosstown rivalry.”
N.C. State won its first ACC home game in nearly two years, ending a seven-game ACC home losing streak, and sent out its seniors with a win in their final home game.
A date with East Carolina in the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md. could be in its future or with, another win, maybe an SEC opponent in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
After a 3-9 finish in 2013, any bowl is a welcomed destination for Doeren's second team.
"To know all the hard work that we did from the offseason until now has paid off is great," senior receiver Bryan Underwood said. "We're going to keep grinding and see where we end up."
Wake Forest (2-8, 0-6) lost its 10th straight ACC game. The Demon Deacons, with games against Virginia Tech and Duke remaining, are in danger of posting their first winless ACC season since 1995.
The Deacs, with one of the worst offenses in the country, finished with 219 total yards. Their defense has been competitive most of the season, as it was in last week's 34-20 loss to a ranked Clemson team, but they weren't able to stop the Wolfpack's ground game.
"If our defense ever does not play well, we have no shot," first-year Wake coach Dave Clawson said. "We have counted on our defense all year to keep us competitive in games, they did not do it today."
Junior running back Shadrach Thornton rushed for a season-best 110 yards, the first 100-yard game by an N.C. State player this season. Sophomore Matt Dayes added three touchdowns, two on the ground. Fittingly for N.C. State, seniors Underwood and Tony Creecy also both ran for touchdowns.
Just about everyone got in on the ground game success for the Wolfpack, which had its most rushing yards in any game since 1990 (400 vs. Western Carolina) and most in an ACC game since 1987 (376 vs. Maryland).
"Our O-line showed up today, our backs ran hard, our receivers and tight ends blocked," Doeren said.
The Wolfpack scored on its first drive, a 2-yard run by Creecy, and never trailed. By halftime, it led 21-3.
On the first play of the third quarer, the Wolfpack got a 75-yard touchdown run by Underwood on a reverse for a 28-3 advantage. Dayes' third touchdown, a 2-yard run, pushed N.C. State's lead to 42-6 at 1:29 in the third quarter.
The Deacons got in the end zone for the first time with a 4-yard run by running back Isaiah Robinson at 8:36 in the fourth quarter but it was too late to matter.
N.C. State senior kicker Nik Sade, who became the school's career leading scorer with six extra points, said it best.
"It's good – get the win, go bowling and get the record at home," Sade said. "That's a pretty good game."