NC State’s victory of Clemson this past Saturday was a significant milestone in the Dave Doeren era of Wolfpack Football. After nearly a decade without a win over a Top 10 opponent, State delivered a resounding performance on the field Saturday, one which the final score simply does not do justice. NC State dominated the Tigers, and they deservedly - and finally - got the notch in the Win column to show for it.
For many, the win was reminiscent of past Wolfpack wins in Carter-Finley over Top 10 opponents.
There was the 2012 win over #3 Florida State, a Seminoles team that would finish the year in the Top 10. The 2011 drubbing of #7 Clemson. The 2005 and 2001 wins over Top 10 Florida State squads also come to mind. For those old timers among us, there’s the 1988 win over #9 Clemson or the 1974 victory over a #7 Penn State that had won 40 of 44 games coming into the contest. Both the 1988 Clemson team and the 1974 Penn State squad finished the season in the Top 10.
Yet, for me, as I’d imagine it is for most of you, this victory felt most reminiscent of the 1998 win over #2 Florida State. The Seminoles under the late great Bobby Bowden had reeled of double-digit wins in each of the previous 11 years (Clemson has done so in 10 straight seasons). FSU had all of one loss in the ACC in their previous six years (Clemson had lost three in their last six years).
It lines up just too well. An early touchdown hole for the Wolfpack, only to be answered by a dominating performance - especially defensively - against a team that was supposed to dominate them... at least if you listened to the talking heads. Maybe the outcome wasn’t as much in doubt in 1998 as it was last weekend, but the similarities remain.
What also remains is the warning that the 1998 victory portends.
Following the monumental victory over Florida State, the Wolfpack kicked off the next weekend against a lowly Baylor team that had gone 2-9 the season before. Call it looking behind, call it a let down or a poor effort; you can call it whatever you want. The fact is that NC State followed up one of - if not the - biggest win in school history with a dud and a big fat loss, falling 33-30 to a Bears team that would win all of one more game the rest of the year.
1998 Baylor’s not walking into Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday, true. But an even better team is.
Louisiana Tech has been to six straight bowl games and is 59-35 in the last 8+ years under Skip Holtz, including a 10-win season in 2019. This team had Mississippi State on the ropes in Starkville in Week 1 this year only to see the Bulldogs - that is, the ones from Mississippi State - mount a furious comeback for the win. If not for a last-second miraculous Hail Mary by SMU two weeks ago, Louisiana Tech would have taken down an SMU squad that enters this week ranked higher in SP+ than NC State.
Simply put: this is not a team to be taken lightly.
If NC State wants the victory over Clemson to be a springboard to a truly special season, it has to forget about that win over the Tigers immediately. You want another 1998 Baylor? Keep looking back at last week.