The third season of head coach David DeKalb’s tenure at NC State did not go at all as planned, as the Wolfpack struggled to replace Marcus Stone at quarterback and the defense took a step back after losing a lot of veteran contributors.
Nevertheless, confidence heading into year four—which, in this instance, as I’m using EA’s NCAA 2007 to do this, is 2009—remains pretty high. Sure, last year was a bit of an eye-opener, but nobody around the Murphy Center lost sight of the goal, and recruiting remains solid. We finished with the No. 14 class and we are adding depth through redshirts that we hope will begin paying off soon.
And we’re turning the page entirely at quarterback, as noted in the last installment: redshirt freshman Damon Chambers, a former blue-chip prospect, is being handed the gig ahead of this year. A gamble, yes, but one that could pay off with developmental progress quickly.
On to it.
We open the season at Houston and win, 38-20. Encouragingly, Chambers throws for 395 yards and four scores in his college debut. The next week, we blow out Arkansas State, 52-14.
In Week 3, we careen right on into league play and crush Duke, 42-10. Toney Baker runs for 179 yards and two scores. This is his swan song, and we hope he can stay healthy and finish with a flourish.
In Week 4, we avenge our loss to UNC last year by clubbing the Tar Heels, 43-24. Baker runs for 230 yards and a couple of scores, and after racking up 400 yards against UNC and Duke, he’s the most popular dude in Raleigh.
We start the middle third of the year by housing Miami (OH), 45-21, which puts us in the top-25 for the first time at No. 23 in the AP and No. 24 in the Coaches. Sadly, we lose our starting center to injury for 10 weeks.
Through five games, Chambers is averaging 9.2 yards per pass attempt and has 14 touchdown passes against four interceptions.
Next up is No. 19 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, a real test of our mettle, and also our first meeting against the Hokies since we beat them in the ACC title game back in 2007. This time, the Hokies prevail, 40-27.
The next two weeks, we play angry and our opponents pay: we beat Clemson 29-0, Wake 41-7.
NC State sits at 7-1 (4-1), with bowl eligibility secured, and eyes toward the larger prize. The Pack won’t be a factor in the national title race this year, as the pollsters continue to underrate or ignore what Coach DeKalb has done here, but so it goes.
The Pack steps briefly back out of conference to demolish Arizona State, 70-7. The Sun Devils weren’t ranked but did have a winning record coming in, and this was in Tempe. I dunno. We’re still mad, I guess.
Next we roll past Florida State in Tallahassee, 48-14, and smoke Boston College in Chestnut Hill, 55-17. We’re starting to win by a lot now, which is encouraging. But the ACC also has been all over the place, with some teams being great one year and useless the next, so the real progress is harder to judge.
The ACC Atlantic title is on the line in the regular-season finale against seventh-ranked Maryland, and unfortunately, we’re not ready for the moment and lose, 49-24. That’s a big heaping pile of disappointment right there, but y’know what, we won double-digit games for the second time in four years, and we’ve got a Gator Bowl matchup with an 8-4 Oklahoma State team to look forward to.
Virginia Tech beats Maryland in the ACC title game, so at least there’s that.
In the Gator Bowl, Oklahoma State prevails over the Pack by three points in overtime. Coach DeKalb has taken an NC State team to a bowl game three times and lost all three by a field goal. Bowl games are a dumbass concept anyway, who cares about bowl games.
At least Toney Baker closed out his college career in style. He finished the season with over 1800 yards rushing, averaging well over six yards per carry. He will be missed.
A final look at the ACC in 2009:
USC QB Matt Barkley wins the Heisman (lol), while Auburn takes the national title over Notre Dame.
As we prep for another important offseason, we like our vital signs.
First-year quarterback Damon Chambers cooled off down the stretch but still finished with the best passer rating of any QB in the DeKalb era. He averaged a very good 8.0 yards per attempt and threw 26 touchdowns, though those came with 14 picks as well.
We also found ourselves a bonafide stud on the defensive side in true sophomore middle linebacker Kyle Davis, who earned 1st-team All-ACC honors this year while finishing third in voting for the Bednarik Award. He recorded 71 tackles on the season, 18 of them for a loss, and picked off four passes.
In recruiting, we’re focusing heavily up front, because we’ve established a #brand of running the datgone ball, and that’s a pitch we can sell to top recruits. We also have holes to fill at running back, and we need to begin cultivating the next generation of standout offensive linemen.
All-American right tackle Dallas Mcrae—one of the Twin Towers—left for the NFL early this offseason; he was a 98 overall by the end of his college career. As per internal policy, we did not attempt to talk him into staying, though we are allowed to do so. Dallas was a great player and he did a lot to help us in recruiting. Here’s the tippy top of our 2010 class:
These guys, we are confident, will bulldoze some people in the near future. Again, we are aiming for a 2010-2011 window for a breakthrough, so these guys may or may not be part of that first triumph—winning the ACC and also winning a daggone datgone bowl game would qualify—but they’ll be ready for the next.
Final crootin’ rankings:
We’ll see you in 2010, which is the future, and not 10 years ago.