It’s fourth-and-1 in Clemson territory, and Philip Rivers hands off to T.A. McLendon, who finds a hole on the left side and scampers for 31 yards to give NC State a 15-0 lead on the road. NC State would win the game 38-6, giving it the program’s first 9-0 start ever.
I can tell you exactly where I was when that play happened, and that remains a vivid night, in general. I was a sophomore at the time. We celebrated that win by storming Hillsborough Street. On-campus stop signs were trampled. We high-fived people in cars as they drove by. It was, without question, the highest point of NC State football this century. A night I could never forget.
You’ve probably heard by now that the last time NC State started 5-0 was in 2002. At that time, I figured—figure we all figured—it was just the start of something big. Two years later, with Rivers gone, NC State didn’t even manage a bowl berth.
Sixteen years later, NC State has the chance to deliver another landmark victory in Death Valley, but the task is much different and the opponent is far better. Who cares. None of this is routine, and that’s the fun part. Life is a lot better when you can’t see the future.
So I recommend enjoying what NC State has been able to do up to this point, because getting this far into the season undefeated is not something you can or should ever decide will be a regular thing. I learned that the hard way, but when I think back about it, it wasn’t one of those times where any one loss served as an emotional override, because none was ever really possible.
I remember T.A. running clean into that Death Valley end zone, and the history of it, and also I remember mowin’ over some stop signs. Let’s try to do that again.