Juston Burris is not sure what has exactly gone wrong for N.C. State in Winston-Salem since 2001. The senior cornerback does know, after six straight losses at Wake Forest, the Wolfpack needs a new approach.
“This year something has to change,” Burris said. “Obviously we can’t do what we did before in the past. Obviously, that didn’t work.”
N.C. State (4-2, 0-2 ACC) travels to BB&T Field on Saturday to take on Wake Forest (3-4, 1-3) hoping to end a losing streak that goes back to Chuck Amato’s second season as the Wolfpack’s head coach.
Dave Doeren is the third N.C. State coach to try to break the Winston-Salem hex. Even all three of N.C. State’s current NFL quarterbacks – Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon – lost on the road to the Demon Deacons.
Rivers, as a sophomore, led the Wolfpack to a 17-14 win in Winston-Salem. N.C. State hasn’t won there since, which Doeren made a point to explain to his players this summer.
In general, N.C. State has struggled on the road in Atlantic Division play (3-23 overall) but specifically, they’ve been vexed by Wake (0-5) and Boston College (0-5) since division play started in 2005.
“You can’t just expect because you beat them at home last year that it’s easy there,” said Doeren, whose team handled Wake in Raleigh last year, 42-13.
“You have to educate guys, I think, on how important it is that we’re focused and locked in, in those two games in particular because the past hasn’t been good.”
N.C. State has lost eight of its past nine games at Wake Forest. Assistant strength and conditioning coach Dantonio Burnette was a junior linebacker on the last N.C. State team to win in Winston-Salem. As either a graduate assistant or full-time assistant, Burnette has been with the program for every loss in Winston-Salem since.
There are some basic reasons, Burnette said, for why N.C. State has struggled at Wake Forest. While the Demon Deacons have traditionally been at the bottom of the ACC, with the lowest winning percentage in conference history (.314), the program was at its apex in the mid- to late 2000s under former coach Jim Grobe. The Deacs won 33 games in four seasons between 2006 and ’09 – including the ACC title in 2006 – which was the best four-year stretch in school history.
“People forget, Wake has had some pretty good teams and they’ve had some really good players,” Burnette said.
There’s also the matter of it being a rivalry game, Burnette said, and Wake is always “fired up” to play in-state games. Over the same time span, the Deacs have a 5-2 home mark against Duke and a 3-1 home record against North Carolina.
And, Burnette said, there’s another reason for the losing streak.
“In general, and not just for N.C. State, but you see they’re a smaller private school and you can take them for granted,” Burnette said.
“I think we’ve always respected them and always knew they were hard to play but if you go there and you’re not prepared, you’re going to get beat.”
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The losing streak
A game-by-game look at N.C. State’s losing streak in Winston-Salem:
Sept. 6, 2003: Wake Forest 38, N.C. State 24
Betting line: N.C. State by 8
Final records: N.C. State 8-5 (4-4 ACC), Wake Forest 5-7 (3-5)
The Wolfpack, coming off a school-record 11-win season in 2002, entered the game ranked No. 14 in the country and with an eye on the next game, a showdown with Ohio State, the 2002 national champions.
The Deacs, in Jim Grobe’s third season got a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown from Willie Idlette and jumped out to a 28-3 lead.
Philip Rivers, N.C. State’s senior quarterback and eventual ACC player of the year, threw for 433 yards but was intercepted twice.
Oct. 22, 2005: Wake Forest 27, N.C. State 19
Betting line: N.C. State by 3
Final records: N.C. State 7-5 (3-5 ACC), Wake Forest 4-7 (3-5)
Wake Forest scored two touchdowns from its defense and got a workman-like 117 yards from running back Chris Barclay. Noted Wolfpack scourge Sam Swank also hit a pair of field goals for the Deacs.
Nov. 17, 2007: Wake Forest 38, N.C. State 18
Betting line: Wake Forest by 6.5
Final records: N.C. State 5-7 (3-5 ACC), Wake Forest 9-4 (5-3)
N.C. State had a habit under former coach Tom O’Brien of beating North Carolina and then turning around and losing its next game. This one fell on a cold Saturday night, the week after a 31-27 home win over the Tar Heels.
Wake quarterback Riley Skinner threw for a pair of touchdowns and linebacker Aaron Curry returned an interception 57 yards for another score.
Oct. 3, 2009: Wake Forest 30, N.C. State 24
Betting line: Wake Forest by 3
Final records: N.C. State 5-7 (2-6 ACC), Wake Forest 5-7 (3-5)
Even Russell Wilson wasn’t immune to struggling in Winston-Salem. The Wolfpack quarterback saw his NCAA record streak without an interception end at 379 attempts. The Deacs picked him off twice, the second time in the end zone in the final minutes to seal the win.
Skinner threw for 361 yards and three touchdowns to outduel Wilson, who finished with 275 yards and two scores.
Sept. 10, 2011: Wake Forest 34, N.C. State 27
Betting line: N.C. State by 1.5
Final records: N.C. State 8-5 (4-4 ACC), Wake Forest 6-7 (5-3)
Grobe emptied the playbook in building a 20-6 lead at the half with receiver Michael Campanaro catching a touchdown and throwing one.
Reserve Wake receiver Danny Dembry also authored his own chapter in series lore with two of his three career touchdowns.
Mike Glennon finished with 315 passing yards and three second-half touchdowns but the Wolfpack rally was too little, too late.
Oct. 5, 2013: Wake Forest 28, N.C. State 13
Betting line: N.C. State by 8
Final records: N.C. State 3-9 (0-8 ACC), Wake Forest 4-8 (2-6)
Campanaro vexes the Wolfpack again with 12 catches for 153 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Also, quarterback Tanner Price, not exactly noted for his nimble feet, ran for a career-high 82 yards and a touchdown.
Pete Thomas threw for 257 yards and a touchdown for N.C. State, which led 10-7 before the Campanaro took over the game.