Kyle Bambard has broad shoulders, and he’s needed them. At 5 feet 9, the N.C. State kicker has the height and the build of a solid Division III linebacker, which is what he looked like when he dove in front of a Wake Forest runner to nullify a potentially dangerous kickoff return.
After making the biggest kick of his career so far, the sophomore finally shed some of the weight he has been carrying. Bambard’s career-long 48-yarder, which came at a critical moment in the third quarter of the Wolfpack’s 33-16 win over Wake Forest, was the first Wolfpack field goal of more than 40 yards in two seasons.
“To say the least,” Bambard said. “It’s about time. That’s all I have to say. It’s about time.”
Bambard had been 0-for-4 for his career from that distance, and the kicks he didn’t even get a chance to try put the Wolfpack in some difficult fourth-down spots. He even lost his job temporarily against East Carolina, watching as UNC-Pembroke transfer Connor Haskins missed from 44 and 42 yards in a game the Wolfpack lost by three. Even Saturday, Bambard bonked an extra point off the right upright.
Bambard needed to make a long one as desperately as the Wolfpack needed this win over Wake Forest. His kick was emblematic of the things that went right for N.C. State on Saturday, along with an offensive outburst that put the Deacons in a hole early, just as the Wolfpack planned it, knowing Wake Forest isn’t built to come from behind.
N.C. State will have to replicate those aspects of this win, because they helped the Wolfpack overcome not only previously undefeated Wake Forest but its own atrocious discipline. The Wolfpack can’t expect to get away with this again.
It was as if the ghost of Chuck Amato was hanging over the stadium, disclaiming the existence of any critics while glaring at the officials from behind mirrored sunglasses. In an unwelcome throwback to that era of Wolfpack football, N.C. State committed 13 penalties for 144 yards, its most since a loss to Miami in 2012.
The relentless parade of flags included two chop blocks on the same drive, a targeting ejection and the Wolfpack’s second sideline interference penalty of the season. N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said he would query the ACC about the chop blocks, saying the Wolfpack had been blocking the same way all season, but N.C. State managed to overcome the indiscipline, and it has been tripped up by less lately.
After from the ritual welcome-to-the-ACC loss administered by Jim Grobe in 2013, the Wolfpack has won three straight against the Deacons, accounting for 43 percent of Doeren’s ACC wins. (With the win, Doeren now has as many wins over an ACC team as he does over Old Dominion.) This one was a little different, with Wake Forest 4-0 and showing considerable and measurable progress after bottoming out in the transition from Grobe to Dave Clawson.
The Deacons should be able to shake off this loss, playing without quarterback Kendall Hinton (although John Wolford was a warrior under pressure Saturday) and running back Cade Carney, with four juicy home games remaining against Syracuse, Army, Virginia and Boston College. Saturday’s loss may keep the Deacons from getting to nine wins, but eight remains a realistic possibility.
Where N.C. State ends up remains very much a mystery. Who knows what to expect from Notre Dame when the Irish comes to Carter-Finley Stadium next Saturday? After that the Wolfpack is at Clemson and at Louisville, a potentially painful two weeks if N.C. State can’t shake this penalty profligacy.
Still, it didn’t matter Saturday, on an afternoon when so much else went right for the Wolfpack, even for Bambard, after two long years waiting for this moment.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock