There were new pictures added to N.C. State’s weight room this week from the Wolfpack’s most recent trip to Kenan Stadium.
It wasn’t just the result, a 35-7 win over the Tar Heels on Nov. 29, 2014, it was the way N.C. State won the game and how the players felt afterward.
“It’s just to try to remind us of that feeling,” junior fullback/tight end Jaylen Samuels said of the recently added pictures.
After five losses in the past six games, N.C. State (5-6) could use a happy, little trip down memory lane. The 2014 win, the high-water mark of coach Dave Doeren’s four-year tenure, was a “phenomenal feeling,” senior cornerback Jack Tocho said.
N.C. State ran for 388 yards and held the Tar Heels to 30 yards on the ground, and knocked quarterback Marquise Williams out of the game, in the process.
“That was a great game,” junior guard Tony Adams said. “We were more physical, on the offensive and defensive line, and we executed as fundamentally as we could.”
And unlike after many close calls and difficult losses this season, there was a euphoria and hope to that win two years ago. Needing a win to get back to a bowl game, and going into this game as a double-digit underdog, N.C. State could use a shot of confidence.
“I just remember feeling good and everybody being happy,” junior safety Josh Jones said.
It was after that game that Doeren made his memorable comments about N.C. State being a “blue-collar school” and how it was “founded by tough people” and “that is what this football team will be.”
Doeren’s words are still on display on a plaque in the corridor of the Murphy Center but he said he hasn’t talked too much about that game since.
“It’s a different team for them, it’s a different team for us,” Doeren said.
But in a rivalry – the teams have nearly split the past 60 meetings (UNC has a 32-28 edge) – one year affects the other. In last year’s game in Raleigh, the Tar Heels were the aggressor on the ground, running for 374 yards, and jumping out to a 35-7 lead in the first quarter.
“It was as bad as you could have it,” Doeren said. “Everything went their way.”
There was little doubt UNC used the embarrassment from the 2014 game in its favor in last year’s game.
“They just had that bitter taste in their mouth from our win the previous year and they came with a vengeance,” Tocho said. “I felt like we didn’t come out as strong as we needed to and it showed with what the score was in the first half.”
N.C. State was able to fight back after the slow start. Even with Matt Dayes injured, and down the third-string option at running back, the Wolfpack ran for 308 yards in last year’s 45-34 loss.
The Wolfpack does have Dayes, who has run for 1,015 yards this season, for this meeting and UNC’s run defense, which ranks No. 114 in the country, remains a weak spot on an otherwise strong team.
N.C. State also has the knowledge that it can have success in Chapel Hill. The Wolfpack has won three of the last four games at Kenan Stadium, with the only loss in 2012 on a last-second punt return by Gio Bernard.
Strange things seem to happen when these two teams meet in Chapel Hill, with Bernard’s punt return (2012), Russell Wilson’s “2-yard Hail Mary” (2010), being the most recent examples. N.C. State would like to find a way to repeat the success from its most recent visit to Kenan Stadium.
“It was a great way to end the season,” Tocho said.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
N.C. State at UNC
When: Noon Friday
Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill