WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – There will be a lot on the line for NC State on Saturday when the Wolfpack travels an hour and a half down the road to face division rival Wake Forest.
Dave Doeren’s team will be seeking its first ACC victory of the season. Bragging rights will be at stake. It will be a chance for the Pack to get one win closer to bowl eligibility.
Oh, and there’s that losing streak.
NC State last beat the Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem in 2001. The same year that Shrek hit theaters. The same month Barry Bonds broke Mark McGwire’s record for home runs in a season.
Philip Rivers was just a sophomore for the Wolfpack that year. Since then, he’s been named an NFL Pro Bowler five times and thrown for 38,772 yards (over 22 miles) as a San Diego Charger.
Right now, NC State’s losing streak at Wake Forest sits at six games. While the matchups have rarely been blowouts, the Pack has lost in just about every way possible over the years.
In 2003, the Deacons took advantage of an inexperienced Wolfpack defensive line and won the game on the ground. Two years later, it was Wake’s secondary that made the difference, using two pick-sixes to steal the victory.
The 2007 contest marked an unusual occasion where NC State was just totally overmatched against the small private school. In 2009, not even Russell Wilson could break the curse, as Riley Skinner’s 361 passing yards and three touchdowns helped extend the streak to four.
State traveled to Winston-Salem with yet another future NFL signal-caller in 2011 when Mike Glennon tried to rally his team back from a 21-point deficit, but it was too little, too late. Most recently, Doeren got his first crack at Wake Forest on the road two seasons ago, but the Demon Deacons ran away with the game in the second half.
This time around, both squads enter the game with defenses that rank in the nation’s top 25 in yards allowed per game, although NC State’s stats are somewhat inflated as a result of a weak non-conference slate. Wake, which was picked in the preseason to finish last in the Atlantic Division, was handed a 50-14 loss at North Carolina last weekend while the Pack used a bye week to address mistakes made in a 28-13 loss at Virginia Tech two weeks ago.
The matchup to watch this Saturday will be the Wolfpack offense against the Demon Deacon defense.
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett was excellent in the first half of the season, completing 68.9 percent of his passes for 1,105 yards and eight touchdowns with only one interception. State’s ground game features junior running back Matt Dayes, who is tied with Florida State’s Dalvin Cook for the most rushing touchdowns in the ACC this season with 10.
When at its best, Wake Forest’s defense has given its opponents headaches this fall. Before Dave Clawson’s team allowed 50 points against UNC, it shut out Boston College on Oct. 10 and held a potent Florida State offense to a respectable 24 points. Brandon Chubb and Marquel Lee highlight a linebacking corps that’s proven to be one of the best in the conference, and that could be bad news for an NC State offensive line that’s struggled as of late.
From a talent standpoint, the Wolfpack hold the edge going into this year’s showdown. NC State has more to lose than a Wake team that’s still building a foundation under Clawson, who is in his second year as the program’s head coach. A win would get Doeren’s team back on the right track before a Halloween date with Clemson. A loss could send the season into a downward spiral.
And it would mean seven in a row.