NC State 38, Arkansas State 31
The Chuck Amato era began in a complete monsoon, but thankfully the Wolfpack took the game - even if it required two overtimes to do so. Philip Rivers opened his career with an incompletion, but the deep pass over the middle of the field set a tone for the rest of his career. The Wolfpack finished the year, the last year with the general admission grassy hill behind the south end zone, with an overall record of 8-4, including a win over Minnesota in the Micron PC Bowl.
NC State 35, Indiana 14
Indiana Head Coach Cam Cameron still hadn’t figured out that Antwan Randle-El can do a lot more damage with the ball in his hands at QB than lined up out wide. Philip Rivers, Bryan Peterson, and Willie Wright had big games as the Wolfpack rolled to the easy win. NC State would finish the year 7-5 with a Tangerine Bowl loss to future ACC foe Pittsburgh.
NC State 34, New Mexico 14
Turns out a pack of wolves will beat a single wolf... who would have guessed? TA McLendon ran for 79 yards in his first game in a Wolfpack uniform, while Jerricho Cotchery and Bryan Peterson hauled in TDs. NC State would reel off nine straight wins to start the season before finishing 11-3 overall, including a 28-6 drubbing of Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl.
NC State 59, Western Carolina 20
The Catamounts weren’t at the depths of their program history in 2003, but Kent Briggs was early on in his drive to take them there. This game was a slaughter. NC State would finish the year 8-5 with a win over Kansas in the Tangerine Bowl.
NC State 42, Richmond 0
The first game of the post-Philip Rivers era gave a false glimmer of hope as the Wolfpack pounded the Spiders. Fun fact: this game was Dave Clawson’s first as head coach at Richmond. Clawson would end up winning two conference titles in his four years at Richmond before unsuccessfully attempting to save Phil Fulmer’s job at Tennessee. Clawson’s at Wake Forest now, if you hadn’t heard. This would be the first NC State squad to miss a bowl game under Chuck Amato, finishing 5-6.
NC State 16, Virginia Tech 20
In a pretty ugly game that featured five total FGs (yay), an inefficient Marcus Vick somehow led the Hokies to a win despite being nearly doubled-up on in total yards by the Wolfpack. Jay Davis had two costly picks that didn’t help. In hindsight, it wasn’t a bad loss, as that VT team went on to finish in the Top 10. The 2005 Wolfpack finished 7-5 with a Meineke Car Care Bowl win over South Florida.
NC State 23, Appalachian State 10
The last year of the Chuck Amato era at NC State started off in promising fashion, with a more-impressive-than-the-score-indicated win over an Appalachian State team that would go on to win the D1-AA/FCS National Championship that year (and the title the following two years, too). Impressive, too, is the fact that NC State won this game despite completing just 7 passes (hi, Marcus Stone). The Wolfpack would finish 3-9, including a record of 2-7 in one-possession games, and be in the market for a new head coach.
NC State 23, Central Florida 25
Boy, did the Tom O’Brien era start off with a solid dud. UCF RB Kevin Smith took the first offensive play of the game 80 yards for a TD. NC State mounted a solid 2nd half comeback on the shoulders of grip-it-and-rip-it QB Harrison Beck, but the comeback was not to be. The Wolfpack would finish the season with a 5-7 record.
South Carolina 34, NC State 0
The first away game season opener for NC State in this millennium ended with a resounding whimper. Russell Wilson’s first game under center ended with him being carted off with a concussion. This was not a good game. Free Life Advice: never go to a game in Columbia, SC. The 2008 Wolfpack would finish 6-7 after losing to Rutgers (!?!) in the PapaJohns.com Bowl.
NC State 3, South Carolina 7
The second straight year of opening up the season on a Thursday night under the lights on national TV brought excitement, but forgot to bring any offense. This snoozefest was like trying to get your really drunk buddy home from the bar - really just frustrating for everyone involved. The Wolfpack would finish the year 5-7 overall.
NC State 48, Western Carolina 7
The Wolfpack would start off what ended up being a great year with a resounding win over the Catamounts (now in the midst of the program’s true depths of despair). Russell Wilson threw for 306 yards and 4 TDs (two of them to TJ Graham), and the ‘Pack rolled. NC State would finish the year ranked with a 9-4 record and a Champs Sports Bowl win over West Virginia.
NC State 43, Liberty 21
NC State kicked off the Mike Glennon era with a closer-than-the-score-indicates win over D1-AA/FCS Liberty. Curtis Underwood and James Washington combined for 181 yards and 3 TDs on the ground, while TJ Graham had a punt return TD. The Wolfpack would finish the year 8-5 with a Belk Bowl win over soon-to-be ACC foe Louisville.
Tennessee 35, NC State 21
The end of the 2011 season brought with it a ton of hype for the 2012 team, and a season-opener in prime time against Tennessee in Atlanta only helped to fuel the expectations... womp womp. Mike Glennon threw 4 INTs and David Amerson got beat deep a couple times for TDs as the Wolfpack never really challenged in the game. The Wolfpack would at least rebound to make a bowl game (although it was a loss to Vanderbilt) and finish 7-6, but Debbie Yow had seen enough before the bowl game was even announced and decided to part ways with Tom O’Brien.
NC State 40, Louisiana Tech 14
Hello, Dave Doeren! This... this is nice! I could get used to this! It was all NC State in this one. Matt Dayes ran for 84 yards and 3 TDs, but this would pretty much be the high point of the season. A close win against D1-AA/FCS Richmond followed the week after... and then there were a ton of losses. The Wolfpack finished 3-9 in Doeren’s first year of his complete program rebuild.
NC State 24, Georgia Southern 23
Matt Dayes scored on a 35 yard TD pass from Jacoby Brissett (Brissett’s first game in a Wolfpack uniform) to give the Wolfpack it’s first lead of the game with under two minutes to play. This game was no fun. Despite a mid-season conference dry spell, NC State would go on to finish 8-5 with a St. Petersburg Bowl win over Central Florida.
NC State 49, Troy 21
Matt Dayes (126 yards, 2 TDs) and Jaylen Samuels (3 TDs) paced the Wolfpack to an easy win over the Trojans of Troy. NC State would go on to finish 7-6 with a rain-soaked loss to Mississippi State in the Belk Bowl.
NC State 48, William & Mary 14
After a 7-7 first quarter, NC State blew the game open by outscoring the Tribe 21-0 in the 2nd quarter. Ryan Finley was efficient and effective in his Wolfpack debut, while Matt Dayes and Jaylen Samuels combined for 246 scrimmage yards and 5 TDs. The Wolfpack would finish 7-6 with a win over Vanderbilt in the Independence Bowl.
South Carolina 35, NC State 28
The Gamecocks took the opening kickoff back for a TD (thanks in part to a no-call hold), one of a few big plays that South Carolina used to win the game. Despite over doubling up the Gamecocks in total yards, the Wolfpack couldn’t complete the comeback and fell short. The season would rebound dramatically, though, as NC State would put together it’s best season since 2002, finishing 9-4 overall and 6-2 in the ACC.