N.C. State’s win over Notre Dame nearly moved coach Dave Doeren to tears on Saturday.
When ABC’s Tom Luginbill caught up to Doeren on the field after the game, Doeren showed an emotional side that most Wolfpack fans have not seen in his tenure.
“Our guys have a lot of heart,” Doeren said. “They’re tough. I love ’em to death. Really proud of ’em.”
N.C. State’s defense, maligned in a loss at East Carolina earlier this season, came through in particular in the 10-3 win over the Fighting Irish.
Doeren was asked specifically about the play of his defense, which held the Irish to 59 rushing yards and its fewest points since being shut out by Boston College in 2008.
“It was unbelievable,” Doeren said in the interview on the field. “It didn’t matter what happened. Put the ball down and let us play, let’s go get it. They’ve got big hearts, man, I love ’em.”
Doeren was more measured in his comments with the media after the game. He did praise his team’s toughness and determination to handle the conditions presented by Hurricane Matthew.
“To me, it was just focus and want-to,” Doeren said.
Neither the weather conditions, Hurricane Matthew drenched the field, nor Notre Dame’s subpar record (2-4) could diminish the value of the win for N.C. State.
“It’s great to be a part of this win, for this program,” said senior running back Matt Dayes, who ran for 126 yards. “We had a lot of alumni come watch this game. I’m pretty sure they’re excited. We played this game for them, the fans and ourselves.”
It was N.C. State’s first nonconference win over a current “Power 5” opponent since 2009 and the fourth time, in 14 home games under Doeren, the Wolfpack had a win over a “Power 5” team.
It also improved N.C. State to 2-0 all-time against Notre Dame. The other win, 28-6 in the 2003 Gator Bowl, is one of the biggest wins the program has had since its last ACC title in 1979.
Saturday’s win, in the rain and mud, is not on the same level as that game, but it will have its own chapter in Wolfpack lore.
“Making history is why you do this,” Doeren said. “Being a part of something special that is a landmark for your program for your players for years to come.”
Everyone will remember the rainy conditions from this game. Apparently the gift for a 50th anniversary is water because more than four inches of rain fell before the noon kickoff and then at least four more came down during the game.
Few games since Carter-Finley Stadium’s first game in 1966 were played in such conditions, even other games staged during a hurricane.
Simply snapping the ball was a challenge, as was handing it off. The two successful field goals were minor miracles.
The rain was constant and the wind would whip in spurts. The conditions contributed to Notre Dame’s problems on offense, but the Wolfpack got an inspired effort from linebacker Jerod Fernandez (nine tackles, a forced fumble) and defensive end Bradley Chubb (three sacks).
With Clemson, Louisville and Florida State on deck in three of the next four weeks, who knows what will happen next for the Wolfpack.
But for its confidence, and for its goal of getting back to a bowl game for a third straight year, this win will only help the Wolfpack’s cause.
“We grew up,” center Joe Scelfo said.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio