Originally published early morning of November 19, 2010
Here’s a great recollection of what it’s like to be a player in the State-Carolina game by long-time Statefans Nation reader and raconteur, Cowdog. His tale takes us back to the 1972 State-Carolina game, one that older Wolfpack fans will probably never forget. Enjoy! — Alpha
Everybody has a time and reason for making a life-long decision. I thought it might be fun to fire you up and get you recalling what it was that made you put the X in UNX and loathe the pastel blue.
I know where I was when it came to me, and if you feel like listening, I’ll tell you the story.
I was in Kenan Stadium on the third Saturday afternoon of September 1972. This 18 yr. old freshman from Fredonia freakin’ New York was completely healthy, dressed and on the depth charts for the first time as a football player for the Red and White from NC STATE!
Actually, it was white over white with red lids and trim, white wristbands to the elbow and white spats. (Modified to go no higher than the ankles. Holtz rules on spats. )
(That was for you Highstick, if you’re listening.)
The Heels were ranked. We had tied Maryland in the opener and beaten Syracuse, and were on nobody’s radar. There I was, with a hundred Monarch butterflies ingested at pre game meal, or so I supposed. I was surrounded in light blue, with a fair share of red.
Crap, I’m getting ahead of myself. The question to the lead was… first shunned…
Midway through gearing up for practice on the first Monday before Carolina, in the bowels of Reynolds, I noted a lack of jocularity coming from the upperclassmen side of the locker room. They just weren’t cuttin’ up. Freshmen never cut up in the room. Well, we did, in whisper-tone, amongst ourselves, but…we always wanted to hear what was goin’ on a couple of rows over. There was not much to pick up this day. Not for me anyway, ‘til we hit the practice field.
After quick drills, which were Lou’s form of calisthenics, we broke into positional units like we always did prior to game plan practice. For us wides it pretty much consisted of pairing up and throwing the ball to each other for about ten minutes with the “passer” doing his best to make the partner try to come up with the most ridiculous sideline catch ever.
On this day Steve Lester was my partner. Steve Lester was the “other” starting senior wide out in 1972. It was Lester who taught me how to take out a pitch man.
Before I threw my first pass to him that day, I heard him say, “Angelo.”
I kinda looked at him funny, like I expected more to follow.
“Lou Angelo,” as he snatched my quite less than perfect spiral.
When I asked him what heck he was talking about, I received no answer, just a nifty little bullet about 3 inches off the ground. The rest of the drill went pretty much silent, and Holtz’s whistle blew, signaling us to “line it up!”
Practice was routine that day, getting the package for Saturday’s gamer installed. After dinner, the offense watched a little film of the Carolina defense versus Maryland’s from a few weeks past.
The thing about film was that for us wide outs, there really wasn’t a whole lot of information to be gathered. Very few teams ran the Twin Veer, so it was tough picking up tendencies watching a future opponent defend an I-formation. The best you could do is try and find the pitchman in zone and man coverage. The problem is, sometimes the outside LB was it, sometimes the safety, and even the DE. You never really knew until the play was in motion against the Veer.
Maybe midway through the session I saw a safety, # 11, put a wicked hit on a back that had lined up as a flanker. A bunch of “oohs” and “aahs” followed from the room.
Someone muffled, “there’s your boy, Pat.” That didn’t seem to go over very well.
“Fuck him.” That came from Lester. I looked over at Pat Kenney for a reaction.
Nope. Nothin’. Maybe a squint. The session soon ended, and for the second time that day, I was left with this question mark balloon over my noggin. I wanted to ask what just happened back there, but as a freshman dressing out for the first time, I felt that if they don’t tell ya, you don’t ask.
Tuesday’s practice was quite remarkable. The guys were really getting at it with each other. It was a mean practice, filled with plenty of expletive adjectives and verbs being tossed around, usually describing Carolina. I was beginning to think that this might not be just another game to win. Over dinner, Don Buckey broke a silence at our freshman round table. “ Hey. Who is Lou Angelo? “ I looked up and asked him where he had heard that name. “ Steve Lester said it to me today. He wouldn’t tell me who it was.” I told Buckey about hearing the name from Steve the day before, but knew nothing either.
As we walked out of Case for the evening, I spied Lester. I had to know. I gave Buck a head twitch and we caught up to the guy with the answer. Buck said it first.
“ Who is Lou Angelo? “
Lester looked at us like we had leprosy or sumpthin’.
“ He broke his jaw! On a cheap hit! “ Lester was pointing, pointing up ahead at Pat Kenney. He what? Pat? Kenney, our all everything? The player I had hoped to emulate? Broke his jaw on a cheap hit? Angelo, now I got it. Number 11.
Boys and girls, by Thursday, I had a whole new take on Saturday’s game. I not only was flushed by the prospects of playing in my first college game, but understood that I was now involved in some thick subplots. I was beginning to catch the current of despise for the coming opposition. Should I play Saturday, I was going to find a way to make Lou Angelo look bad. If the situation were to present itself, even make him pay without doing something cheap.
Midway in the third quarter, Carolina went up by 14. We came right back with a TD of our own. That’s the way the game had been going all afternoon. They’d pull ahead; we’d come back within striking distance. We played from behind, and we played with confidence. I had managed to play two complete series by the end of the third quarter. They were very unremarkable minutes. Nothing really came my way. Most of the plays were spent running off the corner or just chasing to get a pad on someone across the field.
At the outset of the 4th quarter, Carolina had punted and we took possession. Holtz threw up two fingers, meaning I was about to get another series. We moved the ball pretty well, with Roland Hooks picking up most of those yards out to about midfield. We stalled though. In fact on 3rd and long, I finally had a chance to make a play. I ran a sharp 7-yard slant and had no one in front of me. It just wasn’t meant to be as Buck’s pass got batted down at the line of scrimmage. Well, punt ithe ball was to be, so I stayed on the field.
I held my block until the thud and headed downfield, one on the ball the other on anything in blue. Pat Korsnick had kicked a beauty. It was high, deep, and to my side.
At around the 10yrd line I picked up the ball again. The return man was backing off, this one was gonna’ be mine baby! At that moment, I got lambasted. Hit from the side and behind my knees, my arms stretched forward while my legs were planted two inches into the sod. The ball trickled into the end zone.
I was pissed! As I reached behind me to pull the sonofabitch that just got me off, I saw two things at once. On the shoulder pads of the player was numeral 11. On the ground next to me was a pretty, little yellow hankie. We untangled and I got up first on shell-shocked pins. I extended a hand to pull #11 up along with the words, “helluva play Lou.” Something else was uttered about cheap shot, maybe his mother, too.
The defense kept ‘em right down there and on 4th down, Mike Stultz did what he did best that year. He took their punt to the house, man, 27-27 with 6 and change to go.
The Tar Heels mounted a time consuming drive and with under 2 minutes left, punched it in for the go ahead score. Lou collected the offense and exclaimed “hey! hey! we’re gonna’ score!” And down the field the O went with a Bruce Shaw bullet here and a Bruce Shaw bullet there. I think we had a big gainer on a draw by Willie Burden too. With 00:02 and the ball resting on Carolina’s 26, we used the last time out.
Shaw came over and we listened to the call. Of course the guys on the sideline were a wreck, with the Baptist boys praying and the Catholic boys trying to cut deals, and the rest of the faiths putting theirs’ on the offense.
“ Left opposite Jet and Go. “ Lou released his grip on Shaw. The play put Lester wide to the right on the line of scrimmage. Pat Kenney would be the slot about seven yards inside of Lester. Lester would run a deep post, Kenney would cross under and run a wheel.
It seemed like the ball hung in space forever near the back corner of the endzone. To my line of sight, there was nothing but that baby blue in the area. Then superman sans cape but with a big 25 on his chest flew from nowhere over the corner, and over # 11.
Touchdown. With the clock at 00:00 and the scoreboard at 34-33 and the crowd in anguish mixed with holy glee, Holtz managed to get the entire team together on the sidelines. “Men, its up to you. Go for the tie or go for two? “ You probably already know the answer to that question. We were going for two. We were going for the win!
Lou called for a middle screen. Charley Young would be the recipient.
Looking up, the clock was burned in at 00:00 and so too, the score, 34-33.
The play failed.
Later in the locker room, Lou would tell us that the play was the worst he’d ever called.
Yeah, we were hurt, but we were also fiercely proud heading to the field house.
As we made our way on the cinder track to that field house, the Carolina band’s horn section was lined up on the edge of that track serenading us with a mocking rendition of “Ol’ MacDonald.” As I passed in front of the tubas, one blasted off a note not 6” from my ear hole. I don’t know what possessed me, but I bent over, grabbed a handful of gravel, and rammed it right down that fat bastard’s horn.
I never looked back and I’ve never looked at THAT color, that awful Carolina blue, with the same eyes since.