It was the sweetest of days Saturday for Wolfpack fans: a State team whomping on UNC at will, Carolina fans heading back to their cars and the good ole “Wolf” “Pack” cheers rattling off of the aluminum seats that the so-called best fanbase in the country left behind. Basically State ran Carolina off of their own field and as it happened, their fans left early.
One UNC alum asked me this week why “everyone hates Carolina.” I answered that that their sense of entitlement and superiority that inevitably makes other fanbases intensely dislike them. Every school in the ACC can name two rivals: their in-state match, and UNC. Part of that is the undeniable success of UNC basketball — beating the ever-talented Tar Heels is an accomplishment for every ACC school save for Duke — but a lot of it is their fans’ arrogance.
We saw a lot of that arrogance across the blogosphere during the run-up to the game with the usual “Moo U,” “culture versus agriculture,” and redneck comments. We, of course, have our own putdowns for Carolina, but the reality of it is that Carolina fans largely drive State fans’ intense dislike of the light blue. The fact is that NC State is a leading research institution whose graduates median salaries are higher than Carolina’s upon graduation, and that NC State prepares its graduates for real jobs, real careers and real success and that fact escapes Carolina Fan.
That’s what drives this rivalry: obnoxiousness mostly from Carolina’s fans. To be sure, it’s also the proximity, the fact that both schools fans live and work together and that one or the other always suffers at the water-cooler when their team loses.
Personally I respect UNC, but their players do not walk on water and their football team, while improving, is hardly ACC Championship caliber. If you read my comments on the game during the week here at SFN, I said State would win if they controlled the football and limited turnovers. Both happened, especially in the turnover battle, and as a result, State won a very well deserved win that was not even as close as the 41-10 score.
As Coach O’Brien said, NC State is now undeniably the best team of the five D1 programs in North Carolina. One also has to wonder had NC State not lost significant time to injury with a number of its key players if they could have done something special. Injuries are part of the game and afflict every team, but since Tom O’Brien and his staff are forced to rebuild a program left thin by Chuck Amato, injuries affected State more than most because of the lack of quality depth.
Give O’Brien 2-3 years and he will have NC State back on the national map. Unlike Chuck Amato, he will have a team not built on smoke and mirrors but instead it will built upon solid fundamentals, sharp focus and crisp execution with players who we can all be proud to represent our University…in other words, more players like Russell Wilson. One also has to think that once back in the Top 25, NC State will be a fixture there and will be able to have more than one special year in which it visits Miami for a BCS game. And who knows — if the cards fall in the right places, the BCS game might not be the impossible dream it always seems to have been for those who proudly wear the red and white.
That’s the future — but right now, the Wolfpack coaches and players are surely concentrating on defeating a decent Miami team that is coming to Raleigh with every intention of heading to Tampa to play for the ACC title. State has its own designs and can make the post-season with a win, so it is fair to expect that this will be an entertaining game that either team can win. Given the fact that NC State is now playing its best football of the O’Brien era, and that the game is within the friendly confines of Carter-Finley Stadium, I think that State will indeed win if they do the same things that they did so well in Chapel Hill: control the football and limit turnovers.
We as Wolfpack fans can and should pack Carter-Finley and play our hearts out as the twelfth man. Be inside the stadium in your seat by kickoff and after the half, raise holy hell when Miami has the ball, shush up when the Wolfpack offense is at the line of scrimmage, and generally make life miserable for “The U” — a school whose Wal-Mart fans have their own arrogance issues.
Hat tips for the pics: Maggie Tomei took the stadium shots. The Expression Tunnel pic was ganked from 850 The Buzz’s Joe Ovies who borrowed it from Steven over at Section Six.