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NC State dynasty, Year 2: In which the Pack gets ahead of schedule

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Louisville v North Carolina State Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The first installment in this series saw NC State finish its first season (of NCAA Football 2007) under new head coach David DeKalb at 8-6 (5-4). There were tough stretches to be sure, but the Wolfpack upset UNC and also won the Atlantic Division outright with a modest 5-3 record. The Pack went on to lose to third-ranked Miami in the title game, but that contest was all gravy anyhow.

(I guess the Atlantic is playing the role of the Coastal in this particular reality.)

We also lost a nail-biter to Colorado in the Gator Bowl, but there is a lot to build on heading into our first full offseason. Let’s see how the administration and the fans are feeling about the program.

Attendance is strong, we’re unblemished against our rivals, and the job security is approaching buy-a-lake-house levels of solid. As well it should.

In 2007, Marcus Stone returns for one last hurrah at quarterback and as he remains by far the best player we’ve got at the position, his job is secure. Andre Brown is also back after a huge year, and after Toney Baker hardly factored at all in ‘06, I decide to gamble and redshirt him this season.

There’s no easy way to set playing time for reserves short of actually subbing players into specific formations (I deem that too much human interference), and we will hope that Brown can stay healthy and not suddenly force our third-string back into the limelight.

Here in year two, our non-conference slate features Marshall and East Carolina at home, with trips to Army (?) and UCF as well. We close out the regular season with four consecutive road trips. Wait, what? Is someone trying to get Coach DeKalb fired? Nobody tries to get Coach DeKalb fired on Coach DeKalb’s watch!

I’ll deal with the AD after the season; right now me and my guys gotta focus on the opportunities on the field that are right in front of us. We are the preseason No. 27 team in EA’s Preseason 119 and we’re picked to finish second in the Atlantic behind Maryland. Let’s go see.

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NC State easily handles Marshall in the season-opener, 52-14, as Marcus Stone throws for 272 yards and three scores. How much better can Stone be this season? He completed only 55% of his throws in 2006.

In Week 2, State beats ECU, 36-10, behind another excellent outing from Stone, and that sets up a rare September game against North Carolina ... which NC State again wins easily, 38-7. Three games, three wins, and a total of 31 points allowed. Defense lookin’ stout!

We close out the first third of the season with a 28-3 win at Army.

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So everything’s in front of the Pack at this early juncture, and Andre Brown is, as expected doing his thing. Or rather, he was doing his thing. He got hurt against Army and is out for the season. The game did this on purpose, I’m telling you. I’m not able to take a redshirt back off of a player, so Toney Baker stays on the bench—we have elite-level moral support at running back now. Tight end Anthony Hill is out for two months, so we have some adversity to handle, but we are up to 19th in the Coaches Poll.

................

In the first truly pivotal matchup of the season, we host preseason Atlantic Division favorite Maryland and just demolish their jerk-asses, 38-14. You people could at least begin drawing up plans for Coach DeKalb’s statue.

... and we follow that big win up with a letdown loss at home to Clemson, 38-17. Gah. Okay, forget the plans.

The guys respond well, however, and win the next two—against Wake and UVA—without much trouble. The defense continues its excellent play.

...............

With four (road) games remaining, NC State is 7-1 (4-1) and looking up at Florida State, which is 5-1 in the ACC and also happens to be the next opponent. Dare we dream? Is this State team really ready for the next step? Is the program this far ahead of schedule?

Seems so! We win 40-27.

Then lose 24-12 at Boston College. I told them to take it one game at a time, dammit! I warned them!

But again our response is good, and we exact revenge on Miami with a 31-10 blowout the next week. We conclude the regular season with the traditional Thanksgiving weekend game at Central Florida, winning that in blowout fashion as well, and giving us a 10-2 (6-2) regular season record.

...............

NC State and FSU end up tied with 6-2 league records, and we advance via the head-to-head tiebreaker to play No. 12 Virginia Tech in the conference title game. The Hokies went 8-0 in league play but are getting no love from the pollsters, and neither are we, as we come in just 19th in the Coaches and AP polls despite our 10-win year. Absolutely zero respect nationally for the ACC, sheesh.

I decide to actually watch this game because what the hell, and wouldn’t you know it, the boys came through with an easy win over the Hokies. Marcus Stone was money, finishing 20-29 for 290 yards and three scores. Darrell Blackman and John Dunlap both went over 100 yards receiving.

I thought there might be a video game trophy presentation or something, but no, just some parting words from the boys in the studio:

Up next: An Orange Bowl game against fifith-ranked West Virginia and quarterback Pat White, who won the Heisman Trophy.