Milliseconds from a touchdown
If there’s any team equipped to move on from a difficult loss, it’s N.C. State.
The Wolfpack seems to excel in finding excruciating ways to lose a football game. Fifth-year coach Dave Doeren took the 30-24 decision to the Demon Deacons in stride on Monday.
“It’s unfortunate that we had to live it, but that’s football,” Doeren said.
That’s because there was something all too familiar about the loss for the Wolfpack. Even though the “how” was new – freshman receiver Emeka Emezie lost a fumble inches from the end zone on what could have been the game-winning touchdown – the result was not.
By Doeren’s count, it was the fifth time in the past two years his team lost when one key play could have swung the game in his team’s favor.
Exit now if you wish to be spared the flashbacks. The gory details:
vs. Clemson (Nov. 4)
Down 38-31 with 27 seconds left in the fourth quarter, N.C. State converted on fourth-and-10 from the Clemson 28-yard line with a 23-yard catch by receiver Jakobi Meyers.
But receiver Stephen Louis wasn’t set before the snap and was flagged for an illegal shift penalty. Clemson’s defense made the subsequent stop on fourth down and N.C. State lost by a touchdown.
vs. South Carolina (Sept. 2)
Down 35-28, N.C. State had the ball on South Carolina’s 10-yard line with 15 seconds left. Quarterback Ryan Finley tried to find receiver Kelvin Harmon twice in the end zone. On fourth down, after Finley scrambled out to his right, he tried to get Harmon in the back of the end zone, but South Carolina safety D.J. Smith knocked the ball away.
vs. Florida State (Nov. 5, 2016)
Down 20-17, Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois threw an errant pass into double coverage in the end zone with 3:16 left in the fourth quarter. N.C. State safety Shawn Boone was under the ball, and had it in both hands, but couldn’t come down with the interception.
On the next play, Francois hit receiver Travis Rudolph for a 19-yard touchdown and the Seminoles won 24-20.
at Clemson (Oct. 15, 2016)
With the game tied at 17, N.C. State drove to Clemson’s 16-yard line. On the last play of regulation, kicker Kyle Bambard pushed a 33-yard field goal attempt wide right.
The Tigers scored in overtime and then Finley threw an interception during the Wolfpack’s turn in overtime. The Tigers won 24-17 and went on to win the ACC and national titles.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio