Football Goes Bowling

Stocking stuffer package: Faculty and staff looking for a late holiday gift idea can take advantage of an athletics promotion that gives two complimentary tickets to next Tuesday’s Louisiana Tech men’s basketball game. Buy an NC State athletics ticket gift card for $50-99 and receive two upper deck tickets or purchase a gift card for $100 or more and receive two lower-level tickets to the game, which is slated for 7 p.m. at PNC Arena.

Two-thirds of the way through his second season at NC State, Wolfpack football head coach Dave Doeren wasn’t exactly sure how his team might finish the year. The Wolfpack stood at 4-4 overall and still hadn’t won a game against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent, a losing streak that stretched to 12 consecutive games over two seasons.

Junior quarterback Jacoby Brissett
Junior quarterback Jacoby Brissett returns to his home state of Florida for the postseason bowl game on Jan. 26.

Though his team had showed some signs of progress while winning its first four games—all against underdog opponents—it had not been able to win any of the toughest games on its schedule, starting with defending national champion Florida State and including Clemson, Boston College and Louisville.

“I told the team the other day that we were like the little kid standing on top of the diving board that had never jumped,” Doeren said Tuesday. “His dad is at the bottom saying ‘You will be okay.’

“We just needed a play, a single play, to give us that spark.”

In fact, the Wolfpack made that play, even though it didn’t count.

In the third quarter of the game at Louisville, linebacker Airius Moore picked up a fumble and rambled 72-yards for a touchdown, a score that would have closed the Pack’s deficit to 17-15. Even though the play was overturned by replay officials and the Cardinals went on to win 30-18, it was the exact kind of spark Doeren was hoping for.

In its next outing, the Pack defense created three second-half turnovers against Syracuse, an 82-yard interception return and a fumble recovery that set up the clinching score.

With a more disruptive defense and a ground attack that picked up more than 750 yards in wins over Wake Forest and North Carolina, the Wolfpack won three of its last four games to finish the regular season with a 7-5 record and to earn a trip to the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl. It will face Central Florida on Dec. 26 at Tropicana Field at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at GoPack.com.

Doeren will remember this season as the one in which his team became brave enough to step off the high dive, no matter the outcome of the program’s first postseason contest in two years.

“We became mentally tougher,” the coach says. “We showed the progress that you want to show. We beat teams that we couldn’t beat last year. It’s the steps forward we wanted to take.”

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