UNCs Quinshad Davis runs in the open field after a catch.

CARTER-FINLEY STADIUM/RALEIGH It’s the most-watched college football game of the year in North Carolina, and both teams are desperate to win it — not just for bragging rights, but to keep their long-shot bowl hopes from becoming even more improbable.

N.C. State (3-4, 0-4 ACC) is looking for its first ACC win under first-year coach Dave Doeren, and in fact its first win of any kind since September. UNC (2-5, 1-3) has just snapped a four-game losing streak with a 34-10 win over Boston College seven days ago.

It’s the first time both teams have been below .500 for this one since 2007.

The weather is sunny and mild and perfect, and the Wolfpack is showing off its new 50-yard-line logo with a red map of the state and a wolf’s head covering the Eastern Piedmont.

It’s another hard-fought one but this time the Tar Heels make the big plays on defense, holding on for the 27-19 victory.


UNCs Brian Walker celebrates his interception.

The Wolfpack gets on the board first, four plays after Juston Burris intercepts a Bryn Renner pass at the UNC 24. Brandon Mitchell goes around right end for six yards with 12:47 left in the first before Niklas Sade adds the conversion.

Sade makes it 10-0 on a 20-yard field goal at 7:12, completing a 10-play, 59-yard march.

The Tar Heels cut it to 10-7 on a two-yard pass from Marquise Williams to Quinshad Davis followed by Thomas Moore’s conversion at 4:41 to complete an eight-play, 74-yard drive.

Renner puts the Tar Heels ahead at 1:59, four plays after UNC takes over at NCSU 29 after a fake punt attempt doesn’t make it back to the line of scrimmage. Moore converts.

Sade trims the margin to one on a 38-yard field goal with 14:48 left in the second, finishing an eight-play, 48-yard drive.

Sade connects again from 44 at 10:31, putting the Wolfpack up 16-14 at the end of an eight-play, 37-yard excursion.

UNC took the lead again on a 59-yard halfback pass from Ryan Switzer to Davis at 9:43 left in the half, completing a four-play, 75-yard drive. Moore’s boot makes it 21-16.

Sade cuts it to 21-19 on a 28-yard field goal that completes a 10-play, 78-yard drive at 4:50 of the third.

Moore misses a 42-yard field-goal attempt on the first play of the fourth quarter. But the Tar Heels stretch the lead to eight with 11:19 left, as T.J. Logan goes in from 14 yards out to end an eight-play, 67-yard drive before Moore misses the kick.

Brian Walker intercepts a Mitchell pass at the State 44 with 10:53 remaining. The Wolfpack gets one more possession that ends at its own 49, and after getting the ball back with 13 seconds left gets off two plays but no further than the UNC 24.

Williams rushed 17 times for 51 yards and completes eight of 15 passes for two TDs without an interception for UNC. Eric Ebron catches nine passes for 70 yards.

Mitchell becomes the first State QB to rush for over 100 yards in a game since 1976, finishing with 105 yards on 21 carries and completing 10 of 22 passes for 130 yards with two interceptions. Shadrach Thornton carries 22 times for 90 yards.

They said it:

UNC coach Larry Fedora: “Believe me, this team and this university and all of our fans take a lot of pride in that — tremendous amount of pride. As far as I know, it’s always been ‘The Tar Heel State’ and always will be.”

Doeren: “Anytime you lose a game like that, a very hard-fought game, it came down to mistakes for us. We threw the ball to them too many times in the second half, forcing some passes. We ran the ball effectively, but we dropped a couple of balls we didn’t catch and threw a couple of balls we shouldn’t have thrown. There was just not much margin for error when you play like that.”

Ebron: “If we don’t have your respect already, we’re going to keep on taking it until the point where you have no choice but to respect us. I mean, this is our state. Our win ratio to their losses, I mean, we’re killing them. You’ve just got to let them know whose state this really is.”

Mitchell: “We came out and executed. We just didn’t make big plays when we needed to. I was costing my team a victory. I had two turnovers in key situations when we had a chance to do take the lead. I would have pulled myself (in the fourth quarter), too. I need to make plays.”

What does it all mean?

States Brandon Mitchell gets rid of the ball as Tim Jackson pursues.

That the Tar Heels can still cook up a winning season if they run the table, and that the Wolfpack needs to find a win, any win, and pretty soon.

Stars of the game

1. Davis.
2. Williams.
3. Sade.

Play of the game
Switzer’s go-ahead TD pass to Davis.


UNC: Won 2.
State: Lost 4.

All-time series
UNC leads 65-32-6.

Up next
UNC vs. Virginia, Nov. 9, 12:30 p.m.
State at Duke, Nov. 9, 4 p.m.