Wolfpack Looks to Play Spoiler Against Rival UNC
It's said that misery loves company. If that's the case, then the NC State football team will be only happy to dish out a little of it to its rival North Carolina on Saturday.
Having already been eliminated from bowl contention, the Wolfpack can bestow a similar fate upon the Tar Heels by beating them in their annual season finale at Carter-Finley Stadium. At 5-6 overall, UNC needs to win the game to gain bowl eligibility.
Preventing that from happening would at least provide a happy ending to an otherwise lost season for senior safety Jarius Morehead (No. 31 in the above photo) and his teammates.
"It would be sweet," said Morehead, one of the few members of the Wolfpack to have played in every game. "I haven't lost to those guys, so that's not the plan. If we could go 4-0 (against UNC), I would love that."
Keeping the Tar Heels home for the holidays isn't the only incentive State has for playing well and beating UNC for the fourth straight season.
It's also Senior Night for Morehead and 11 other upperclassmen -- nickel Stephen Griffin, wide receiver Tabari Hines, defensive end Deonte Holden, offensive tackle Emanuel McGirt, cornerback Kishawn Miller, defensive tackle Larrell Murchison, defensive end James Smith-Williams, and walkons Will Brown, Tyler Dabbs, Will Dabbs and Jackson Quiggle.
For the majority of that group, it will be the last football game they ever play.
Having been through the experience himself, coach Dave Doeren said it's a game each of the players will remember for the rest of their lives.
"It's always an emotional day for the young men, for their families." Doeren said. "For me as a coach it's always a very, very proud day to be with those guys in their last college football game. As I've said before, it's a day that I remember very well as a player. It’s probably the only game that I remember almost every snap of it as long as that was now."
The last thing he wants is for that lasting memory to be one of disappointment.
It's something the younger players on the State roster are almost as passionate about as the departing upperclassmen.
"A lot of these seniors have helped us out. They've helped me out so much since I got here with my injury and adapting from high school to college. A lot of them are like family to me, so to let them go with a win would be awesome."
Wins have been few and far between for the Wolfpack this season. It's been six weeks since the last time it experienced a victory, all the way back on Oct. 10 against Syracuse.
Despite the current five-game losing streak, which can be attributed at least partially to a epic rash of injuries, there's at least a glimmer of hope heading into Saturday's game because of the way the team has played recently.
State led Louisville 10-7 at halftime two weeks ago before letting the game slip away with a bad third quarter. Last Thursday in Atlanta, the Wolfpack outscored Georgia Tech 23-7 in the second half. But it wasn't enough to overcome a disastrous first half.
According to Morehead, the goal is to put those two good halves together in the same game.
"Seeing that second half we played at Georgia Tech and the first half we had (against) Louisville, we had a lot of potential" he said. "We just lacked the details. We should have won more games than we put up."
Of all the losses, the Morehead said that the Georgia Tech game was the most painful because it mathematically ended the Wolfpack's streak of five straight bowl seasons.
Morehead said that it took several days for the reality of State's situation to full sink in. Once it did, the focus turned solely to the one final goal the team in general and seniors in particular still have a shot at accomplishing.
"It's okay for seniors to be selfish this week, because you know it's your last week and you don't know if you're going to go to the next level," Morehead said. "You take it one day at a time and just soak in everything that you get."