Dave Doeren spent two successful seasons at Mid-American Conference member Northern Illinois in the shadow of the Big Ten. It’s easy for North Carolina State’s head coach to understand why East Carolina plays so well against ACC teams.
“Anytime you have a situation where there are a lot of good players on the team and feel like they could have played somewhere else, they have a chip on their shoulder,” Doeren said.
“I think that’s what those kids play to. For us, from the get-go the chip on your shoulder has to be all about proving who we are; showing our best product and making a name for ourselves and this is just another opportunity to do that.”
East Carolina (1-0) is riding a five-game winning streak against ACC schools. The Pirates have the advantage of making it six in a row at home on Saturday when the Wolfpack (1-0) visits Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
The Pirates’ always enthusiastic 50,000 fans filling the stadium look forward to their football weekends. Some of those fans will be traveling the same Highway 264 as the Wolfpack down to Greenville.
“There are a lot of ECU alumni in the Raleigh area, and they take pride in their university, which is what you would expect them to do,” Doeren said. “I know football is important to them and they will have a great crowd. When we go down there I know our fans will travel well and support us in their stadium.”
East Carolina’s five-game ACC winning dates to 2013 under former head coach Ruffin McNeill, an East Carolina alum let go at the end of a 5-7 season in 2015. Two of those times, both in the 2014 season, the Pirates knocked off ranked ACC teams.
The Pirates beat North Carolina 55-31 in 2013; N.C. State 42-28 in 2013; No. 17 Virginia Tech 28-21 in 2014; No. 25 North Carolina 70-41 in 2014; and Virginia Tech 35-28 in 2015.
The Pirates won their last two meetings with N.C. State, but this is the first experience for Doeren and East Carolina first-year coach Scottie Montgomery in the rivalry. ECU won at home in Greenville in 2010, 33-27 in overtime, and in 2013 in Raleigh, 42-28.
Montgomery, though, is familiar with the ACC, particularly the Triangle rivalry among N.C. State, North Carolina and Duke. He played at Duke and was the Blue Devils’ offensive coordinator the past two seasons before taking his first job as a head coach. He made his debut with a 52-7 win last week over Western Carolina, a Football Championship Subdivision member.
“We do understand the gravity of the moment,” Montgomery said. “This is a big-time matchup. I’ve been in the Triangle a lot of my life, so I understand the importance of winning in-state games and being around in-state opponents (that are) so close. We’ll be focused and ready to go.”
Although Doeren is the coach at a Power Five school, he says he still feels that chip on his shoulder from his playing days at Drake, an FCS member. He graduated to the Football Bowl Subdivision as a Kansas assistant from 2002-2004. He was Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator (2008-2010) before he landed the Northern Illinois opportunity that led him to Raleigh.
He’s not underestimating East Carolina as a non-Power Five school. He’s trying to build N.C. State’s reputation in the ACC and beyond. A loss to East Carolina won’t help that goal.
“I have a chip on my shoulder,” Doeren said. “I always have and I always will. I came from a Division I-AA (now FCS) program. Nobody ever thought anything of me because I didn’t play anywhere big. I’ve always been a great thing for me to prove people wrong. I want to be the best I can be. As for having a chip on your shoulder, it is a big deal.”
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