KENAN STADIUM/CHAPEL HILL Even for the losers, it was probably going to be a decent season.
Everybody was already going to a bowl game and both teams were heading in the right direction when 6-5 UNC hosted 6-5 N.C. State in their 140th meeting on a sunny but chilly Saturday afternoon.
And bowl scouts from the preferred Belk Bowl as well as the Military and Independence were in the house.
Each team was coming in off a convincing win over its other ancient natural rival, the Wolfpack a 42-13 rout over Wake Forest two weeks ago and the Tar Heels a surprisingly comfortable 45-20 win over then-No. 24 and defending Coastal Division champion Duke nine days ago.
Maybe the old cliche about a team “wanting it more” applied this time, but it was definitely the Wolfpack’s day as State rolled to a shockingly easy 35-7 victory. Shockingly easy.
The Wolfpack finished with 454 yards total offense – 388 on the ground – to 207 for the Tar Heels, and ran 69 plays without a turnover.
State struck first on its opening possession, going 79 yards in nine plays with quarterback Jacoby Brissett scrambling in from 17 yards out to help make it 7-0.
UNC had a chance to cut into the lead with 13:27 left in the half, but Thomas Moore’s 35-yard field-goal attempt was wide left.
State doubled the advantage at 9:52 of the second following a two-yard toss from Brissett to David Grinnage. The highlight of the seven-play, 80-yard march was Shadrach Thornton’s 58-yard run down the left sideline to the Tar Heel 17.
It went to 21-0 with 4:44 left in the half following Thornton’s four-yard run to end a four-play, 72-yard drive. Brissett’s 60-yard run to the UNC 4 was the highlight.
And to 28-0 with 4:21 left in the third as Brissett hit fullback Tyler Purvis from three yards out to complete a methodical 12-play, 50-yard march.
And to 35-0 with 11:18 left in the game as Brissett connected with Purvis again from the 2.
The Tar Heels avoided the shutout on a 13-yard pass from Mitch Trubisky to Quinshad Davis with 1:48 to play.
Brissett was 9-for-11 for 66 yards and three TDs and rushed 14 times for 167 yards and a score. Thornton carried 28 times for 161 yards.
They said it …
State coach Dave Doeren: “I’m very, very proud of the N.C. State football team and the coaching staff and the players and our preparation. For two games in a row we’ve dominated an in-state opponent. It was a great performance in all three phases by a whole bunch of people. We asked Jacoby to run the ball today and we knew they’d have a problem with it. He did a great job. Sometimes things are just right, and they were right today.”
UNC coach Larry Fedora: “Let’s give credit to their coaching staff and their players. They were better prepared and they played a better game compared to us today. They were better than we were. They outplayed us. There is nothing much you can say about it. I’m happy that we have another one to send the seniors out the right way.”
Brissett: “It wasn’t about me. It was all about us, but I had to play well for us to win. The players around me all did a great job, offense and defense and special teams. It was a total collective effort. We knew we had to score points because we knew how explosive their offense was.”
Thornton: “At this point in the season it’s about the team that can run the ball. The physicality about establishing the run early was a big part of our game plan. We knew we need to run hard, run physical and deliver the blow. And we all came to play today.”
What does it all mean?
That the Wolfpack will get the better bowl game. And that the Tar Heels need to make the kind of December recovery they did last season to finish the season respectably.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Juston Burris’ interception of a pass from UNC’s Marquise Williams pass at the Wolfpack 10 with 1:06 left in the first half.
NCSU: Won 2.
UNC: Lost 1.
UNC leads 65-33-6.
Bowl games all around.