NC State

Bowl talk on back burner for Wolfpack

State's Matt Dayes wants to get 1000 yards for offensive line

N.C. State running back Matt Dayes says his last home game won't be sentimental, but that he wants to get 1000 yards for the season for the offensive line.
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N.C. State running back Matt Dayes says his last home game won't be sentimental, but that he wants to get 1000 yards for the season for the offensive line.

N.C. State needs to win one more game to qualify for a bowl game.

After last week’s 35-20 win at Syracuse, the Wolfpack (5-5) has five wins on the season with two games to play. N.C. State closes out its home schedule on Saturday (12:30 p.m., WRAL) against Miami (6-4).

The players can all do the math, so bowl eligibility hasn’t exactly been a hot topic.

“No one’s really talking about it that much,” senior running back Matt Dayes said.

Really? No excitement or chatter after breaking a four-game losing streak with the road win over the Orange?

“I’m glad we won, but I’m not happy yet because we’re not where we want to be yet,” junior defensive tackle B.J. Hill said.

Seven wins is where N.C. State wants to finish the season with its two games remaining against Coastal Division opponents. The annual rivalry game with North Carolina is Nov. 25 in Chapel Hill.

The Wolfpack will cross that bridge when it gets there the day after Thanksgiving. It can wrap up its third straight bowl trip under coach Dave Doeren and seventh in nine years at home with the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Doeren said bowl talk has been at a minimum for a good reason.

“You really don’t have to bring it up,” Doeren said. “I think the guys know.”

One topic the Wolfpack will address at length is Saturday will be the final home game for 14 seniors.

“When you’re coaching a kid in his last game, it’s emotional,” Doeren said. “It’s special deal when you walk through that tunnel for the last time.

“I want to have a special week for them. I want to hug them in the locker room after the game with a smile on their face, knowing that they won.”

This is the recruiting class that came in the when Doeren replaced Tom O’Brien after the 2012 regular season.

The group, led by Dayes, cornerback Jack Tocho, safety Dravious Wright and receiver Bra’Lon Cherry, has been through a difficult stretch.

Their first year, N.C. State went 3-9 and closed the season with eight straights losses and went winless in ACC play for the first time since 1959.

The team rebounded to go 8-5 in 2014 and leveled off at 7-6 last year. The four-game losing streak — three of the games decided by seven points or less — before the Syracuse trip derailed any hope of surpassing the eight-win mark.

To Hill’s point, the Syracuse win didn’t make N.C. State’s season but a loss would have left it in a must-win situation. The win also helps build the Wolfpack’s confidence back up.

“Breaking the losing streak and finally getting a win definitely takes a lot off our shoulders,” said Dayes, who had 108 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the win over the Orange.

Dayes needs 61 yards to become N.C. State’s first 1,000-yard rusher since T.A. McLendon in 2002. That would be one goal for Dayes and the offensive line.

Sending the seniors out with a win would be another. Not that Dayes was feeling too emotional on Monday.

“It just feels like another game for me,” Dayes said.

Maybe but with a win, N.C. State would qualify for a bowl and take some pressure off of the finale in Chapel Hill.

And that would be a big deal, even if the players don’t want to talk about it.

“We know it’s a big game,” Hill said.

N.C. State running back Matt Dayes says his last home game won't be sentimental, but that he wants to get 1000 yards for the season for the offensive line.

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

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