It finally happened for Dave Doeren’s Wolfpack. After 4 years of frustration that combined for a 0-12 mark against FSU, Clemson, and Louisville, the Wolfpack came away with a win against one of the heavy hitters in the Atlantic. You heard they hype, you can see the depth chart, with a team full of talented Juniors and Seniors and one notch under your belt already, the time is now for NC State.
Allow me to get waaaaay ahead of myself here for a second to fully understand the situation the Wolfpack find themselves in within the conference. This coming weekend the Syracuse Orange will come to town (a game in which NCSU is a 13 pt favorite) which then sets the stage for the reigning Heisman trophy winner to come strolling in to Carter-Finley. With NCSU being the first team out of the top 25 next week, a businesslike win by a couple scores this weekend should set the table for a top 25 showdown next Thursday night with the Cardinals. Louisville has struggled with the likes of Purdue and UNC as well as gotten the doors blown off while hosting Clemson a couple weeks ago. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Vegas making NCSU the favorite there as well. Following that game is a road trip to a bad Pittsburgh team which would then set the stage for the biggest game Raleigh has seen in YEARS as the defending national champs would come to town. I say all that to say this. There is a realistic chance that NCSU will be a favorite in every conference game between now and Nov 4th. That alone is unfamiliar territory for Dave Doeren and his team as they figure out how to position themselves for the rest of the year.
Now comes the big question for this NCSU team. How will you handle a little taste of success? Wading through unfamiliar waters can be a challenging thing for a program trying to “take the next step.” Not only are you coming off a big win on the road but there is a big game just 10 days away with a lesser opponent sandwiched in the middle. To try and get a feel for how this team may respond lets take a look back at some of the games where NCSU may have “poured it out” and how they responded the following week.
For this review I am not looking at the 2013 year under Doeren as NCSU was largely not competitive.
- #1 FSU came to town and NCSU jumped out to a 24-7 lead. FSU took over from there. The following week traveled down to Clemson and got dominated in every possible way as Clemson rolled 41-0. Loss
- NCSU started 2015 4-0 (4 cupcakes) and had Louisville coming to town. Lamar had his coming out party and broke off a couple big plays as NCSU fell 13-20. The following week NCSU went to Blacksburg and lost 13-28. Loss
- #3 Clemson came to Raleigh and won a shootout 41-56(see 14 FSU game). The following week NCSU took a trip to BC and won 24-8. Win
- @#19 FSU 17-17 game at half turned into a 34-17 loss. Syracuse came to town the next week and NCSU prevailed 42-29. Win
- @#3 Clemson 33yd FG no good. Lost in OT. Following week got destroyed @ Louisville and trailed 44-0 at half. Loss
- #19 FSU came to Raleigh and scored one play after dropping a game ending INT. The next week NCSU went up to Syracuse and won 35-20. Win
The one thing I can take away from that list is that when State was playing a clearly inferior team they were 3-0 and that should be the case this weekend. At the same time NCSU hasn’t come off a big win under Doeren so that is the great wildcard.
Rest assured the fans and students will be talking about it and the players probably will be as well, albeit in private. Can this team stay the course and keep focused? Now is not the time to bask in your accomplishment. Nothing great has been accomplished yet. Will Saturday be a one off in another 7-5 season for NCSU or can Saturday be a springboard into a season rarely had in Raleigh? These chances do not come around every year, not at a place like NCSU. Now is your chance, what are you going to do with it?