Here we are, y’all. Final game of the regular season time. We made it. This has been a really fun ride. I hope you have all enjoyed this year. There are tons of sour grapes eating fools out there just focusing on the games NOT won instead of looking at how much growth this team has shown this year.
Don’t get me wrong, if you want to be a pessimist, there’s a lot of fertile ground for you. You could think, “what if Devin Leary hadn’t gotten hurt last year?” That would have surely resulted in at least one-two more wins, likely the Miami and Kentucky games. Speaking of Miami, you could think, “what if State had just won that dang game?” Well, we’d actually be in the same position we are now. In this absurd hypothetical situation, NC State would have one conference loss (Wake Forest), tied with Wake (after their loss to Clemson) for first and they’d have the tiebreaker. The Wolfpack would still need Wake to lose to BC in order to win the division outright. The only difference is they wouldn’t be in this convoluted three way tiebreaker situation that results in a Wake loss to BC. Now, the loss to Wake Forest might bristle your beard, and that’s understandable. But if you’ve been paying attention to the Film Room series (and if you haven’t, well then, shame on you, really, but also your loss in missing out on elite BTP+ content), you’ll see the resiliency this team has shown when down in games. This is anything but the same ‘ol same ‘ol Dave Doeren NC State teams. This is like when people say that Steph Curry is only good because he makes three pointers. Anyone who says this has an invalid opinion and does not understand all the work that led to that shot, or how basketball offenses work.
This is why “coulda woulda shoulda’s” will get you nowhere. I saw today there’s Wake Forest fans hemming and hawing about their two losses, saying, “mannn why couldn’t we have gone undefeated, this was our chance to make the CFP!” Boy, please. You have not been through the fire enough times to be anything but thankful for the mana from heaven that is this season. Every fan gets frustrated over individual losses. Even the Wake Forest grad that usually roots for unc or Michigan and just heard a month ago the football team was doing well. The guy who never spent his Saturdays in the football stadium yet pulled his old hat out of the closet, dusted it off and quickly tried to learn the key players on the team.
Even with that loss to Wake Forest, my SSUPO did not return. I’ve turned a corner with this staff, and I hope you have to. Dave Doeren had to do a lot of soul searching after 2019. To be able to recover with two solid seasons like this in years 8 and 9 is very rare. Losing Drink and Ledford seemed big at the time. It seemed like letting Hux go was really hard for him and the players. Everyone seemed really attached to him, but changes were needed, unfortunately. But all the staff turnover resulted in Dave bringing in experience on top of experience on top of experience. Several solid hires with coaches who’ve been around other top programs were exactly what Doeren needed. I am lowkey hoping he tells Kevin Keatts about this because experience at the Power 5 level in the coaching staff can not be underrated. We said this at the time, hoped it into existence, really, but Dave Doeren had built a solid foundation. We didn’t need to tear it all down, the bones of the house are sturdy, we just needed a full overhaul to breathe new life into it. And he has done just that, without changing the tenor of the family-first culture.
That being said, there’s still one game left. And there’s still a lot left for the Wolfpack to play for:
- Pride: The record between NC State and unc is tied 5-5 over the last 10 matchups. NC State has lost the last two against “not our rivals”, and they weren’t close or even slightly competitive. From what Doeren said in his press conference today, it seems like he and the players know this. Expect them to play with an edge. Those two losses brought Doeren to 4-4 vs the heels, after posting a three game winning streak. Winning this game means a lot to him, and he knows how much it means to the fans. He rightfully acknowledges that 2016 win being the one that saved his job. Mack’s team gained bowl eligibility in their 11th game vs Wofford (congrats?). They now have only one thing to play for: Ruining NC State’s senior day.
- “Seniors”: Seven Wolfpack players will be exhausting their collegiate eligibility after this season and will walk for NC State on Senior Day: CJ Riley, Tyrone Riley, Emeka Emezie, Daniel Joseph, Chris Ingram, Dylan Parham, as well as Chandler Zavala. Doeren said that they’ve applied for Zavala to get a waiver for an additional year. We’ll see how that goes because the NCAA is awesome. An unknown number of additional players will also be walking early. Some of them might walk and return, like CJ Riley and Emezie did last year. Ikem Ekwonu has said he will walk even though he hasn’t made a final decision (wink wink). Ricky Person already announced his intentions to go pro. Payton Wilson may walk as well, the point is that it’s a LOT of people. It adds that extra bit of motivation to have those guys walk out on a high note.
- Defend home turf: After the Syracuse game, Doeren said that the team had a goal of finishing this season undefeated at home, which I don’t believe has ever happened. They are now one big game away from completing that goal.
- Championship: NC State is still in the hunt for the ACC Championship. All NC State can control is beating unc. They got the first half of Wake Forest finishing with two losses with their loss to Clemson. Hopefully, BC can come through with the game of their life. Having QB Phil Jurkovec back is great timing, and is the best shot the Eagles have.
- 9 wins is a big deal: As I said in a previous post, NC State has only ever finished with 9+ regular season wins five times, with Dave Doeren having one of those (2018). Here are the times: 1927, 1991, 1992, 2002 (10 wins), 2018. As much as things have changed in college football, it’s interesting how winning 9 wins or more in the regular season continues to be a measuring stick of success.
- 10 wins is an even bigger deal: Similar to the above measuring stick of 9 wins is double digit wins. People are still giving Dino Babers credit for his lone 10 win season, which included that premiere win over Clemson. It would be a feather in the cap for a program that has won 10+ wins in a season.. checks notes... ONCE (2002). As I said before, it would be interesting to see the fans’ reactions to a 10 win season, assuming a bowl win. Winning a total only ever seen under Philip Rivers, yet there will be pangs of disappointment thinking about what could have been if they end up missing the conference championship game.
The list could go on and on. You could just pick one, or all of them. Ultimately, the team has grown by leaps and bounds this year, and all signs point to a great foundation for future success.