AP – Saturday, September 2nd – 9:53 pm EST – Raleigh, NC
Behind a potent rushing attack and stingy defense that allowed fewer than 200 total yards, NC State opened its 2006 season with a resounding 34-13 victory over defending I-AA champions Appalachian State before a packed house of 60,000 Saturday night at newly refurbished Carter-Finley stadium in Raleigh, NC.
In the days leading up to the game, NC State coach Chuck Amato expressed concern over the team’s preparedness to take on their scrappy, but disciplined neighbors from the mountains of western North Carolina. Those fears were put to rest as the Wolfpack jumped out to a 14-0 1st quarter lead behind 2 rushing touchdowns (3 yards and 11 yards) from sophomore Andre Brown.
Quarterback Marcus Stone also hooked up with converted flanker Darrell Blackmon on a 21 yard touchdown pass in the 2nd quarter before the Mountaineers answered with a 37-yard field goal to close out scoring in the 1st half.
The NC State offense, which struggled throughout 2005 to find consistency, featured a balanced attack, as NC State’s running backs combined for 213 yards on the ground, led by Toney Baker’s 91 yards on 13 carries. Redshirt freshman Jamelle Eugene scampered for 53 yards on 7 carries, and Andre Brown added 70 yards on 7 carries in limited action. Marcus Stone looked efficient in passing for 183 yards on 12-19 with 1 touchdown, before giving way to redshirt-junior Daniel Evans at the end of the third quarter. The son of former Wolfpack great Johnny Evans posted good numbers in limited action- 8-11, 79 yards, and 1 touchdown.
The 475 total yards were a welcome sign to coach Chuck Amato, who has seen his team struggle with turnovers, penalties, and poor third down conversion rates for the past two seasons. He was pleased that his team only committed six penalties in its first game. “You people saw our fannies committing penalties last year. Those dadgum youngsters did pretty well tonight, pretty well.”
The defense also did not appear to skip a beat, despite having to replace 3 first round NFL draft picks and 6 starters. A new look front four of Raymond Brooks, Martrel Brown, Tank Tyler, and DeMarrio Pressley harrassed Appalachian State, forcing 2 first half fumbles, and registering 3 sacks.
The NC State victory came on the backdrop of a long, strange afternoon in West Raleigh, as snarled traffic caused problems as far away as Henderson, the consequence of newly enacted rules prohibiting fans from tailgating until 4 hours before kickoff. Residents described the scene as worse than the icestorm lockdown of 2004, and completely avoidable. CNN and other national media picked up the story as the lead to their evening newscasts, presenting yet another public relations headache and embarrassing situation for the NC State administration and Raleigh city officials.
Many out of town ticket holders arrived in the morning to setup their tailgates, a custom that dates back to the mid 1960s when (then named) Carter stadium opened. Instead, fans discovered locked gates and no traffic control presence. Confused fans parked their caravans on the side of the road, creating a logjam of traffic that didn’t resolve itself until 1 1/2 hours into the game.