Comprehensive (But Scattered) Thoughts on the Pitt Game

When I think about today’s game, I recall the first glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. I had been going to NC State football games my whole life (in fact, one of my earliest memories is of the eerie silence settling over C-F when Penn State beat us on a last second 54-yard field goal).

As I became more aware of what was happening on the field – from the nutty mediocrity of the Monte Kiffin era to the humorless disaster that was Tom Reed football – one thing was constant. State lost. A lot. Being a kid, then an adolescent, the game action became kind of secondary. My cousins and I would routinely leave our “Wolves’ Den” seats (it was a gentler time, when parents sat in the real stands and let their kids roam freely on the grass bank and bleachers), grab cardboard boxes from near the concession stands, and slide down the pine needles near the fieldhouse. This was awesome, and unlike paper football, never really got old.

During the second game of the Dick Sheridan era, the Wolfpack hung in for awhile against nationally ranked Pitt. But it was the 4th quarter now, with the Panthers up 14-3. Off to the pine needles we went. But then something changed. The stadium started getting energized. For the first time I could recall, we abandoned the needles to check out the game. And what an ending. A touchdown and two-point conversion made it 14-11, and Erik Kramer and company promptly got the ball back inside the Pitt 30 (on a blocked punt or bad punt snap, I think). Our offense stalled, but Mike Cofer boomed a 48-yard FG to lead the Pack to a tie. At the post-game tailgate, I asked my Dad if he would take us to a bowl game if we made one. After he stopped laughing (and it may have been the longest I ever heard him laugh), he said “sure.” And he was true to his word.

I remember that Sheridan and Kramer even made it into Sports Illustrated the following week. For the first time since I understood what was happening, NC State football was relevant. And for my money, 1986 is still the most exciting football season I’ve experienced.

Fast forward 23 years (and maybe 2 weeks), and we seemingly are at a crossroads again. This is a game that NC State needs for national respectability. And Pitt is a solid team. But “good opponent” does not necessarily equal “bad matchup” – and I’ve liked State’s chances all along, every bit as much as I dreaded the South Carolina matchup. You see, I trust Tom O’Brien as a coach. But we can’t line up against physical teams with SEC speed. Not yet, anyway. But we can beat good teams.

I was 100% confident about this game before Owen Spencer (otherwise known as the only Pack WR who gets open) got hurt. TJ Graham is a fun player to watch. But as a route runner…he’s a great kick returner. His cohorts aren’t much better, although Jarvis Williams is showing some signs of development. And perhaps the weather will be the great equalizer, elevating the importance of the steady possession receiver. We need Jarvis’ A game this afternoon. No question.

But there is a flip side to the injury bug – Jake Vermiglio will be back. Jake is arguably the Pack’s best, most physical offensive lineman, and certainly our best tackle. Better tackle play will keep Russell Wilson alive to make plays. Better tackle play will allow us to deploy our not-so-secret weapon in the passing game instead of staying in to block. Your key to the game is George Bryan. With the potential for a wet field and a wet ball, what more can you ask for than an offensive tight end with great hands and the feet of Baryshnikov?

This will by no means be an easy victory. But I’m predicting that a career day from George Bryan will just barely carry us across the finish line, despite RW’s incredible “no interceptions” streak coming to an end.

NC State 24, Pittsburgh 23

About BJD95

1995 NC State graduate, sufferer of Les and MOC during my entire student tenure. An equal-opportunity objective critic and analyst of Wolfpack sports.

'09 Football On the Record

15 Responses to Comprehensive (But Scattered) Thoughts on the Pitt Game

  1. b 09/26/2009 at 2:00 AM #

    Good call on Bryan, not just him but Watson and Kushner too. I think the 2nd TE is gonna make a big play late after Bryan establishes the middle. Watson looks prime for that role.

    Darrell Davis is starting to make a few intermediate catches. Should be a key to opening things for the burners, namely Graham this week, as well as the possession players underneath.

    James Washington can have a big impact on this game receiving out of the backfield.

    Russell is gonna have a solid game, as long as the interior O-line holds the center on pass plays. Middle pressure will force role outs and that can narrow the passing field. If that happens Russell’s streak will end. If Pitt has to blitz heavy to move him they will get burned.

    I’d like to see a defensive TD, the secondary is due a pick 6.

  2. Daily Update 09/26/2009 at 5:06 AM #

    Oh no…BJD is optimistic.

    I have no clue what to think about this game. SC beating Ole Miss made me feel better, but I don’t have the confidence that I did at the end of last year.

  3. wolfonthehill 09/26/2009 at 5:58 AM #

    The way you started out reminds me of my 7-year-old twin sons. I’ve been taking them to 1-2 games a year for a few years now (so they’ve been to 5-7 games).

    At the end of last weekend, I did what I always do… “Boys, what was your favorite part of this weekend”? One of my boys immediately said, “Going to the football game! Because we’ve never seen them win before!!!”

    That’s… just… sad. And it’s not like I’ve been taking them to FSU every year. Thrown into those losses are games like Akron.

    Now to today’s game… I’d like our chances a lot better (1) with Owen, and (2) with dry weather. I just have no idea what’s going to happen today. Regardless, the ribs will be amazing, and the Red Oak will be plentiful. Guaranteed at least that much…

  4. imawolf 09/26/2009 at 6:37 AM #

    I too was at that Pitt game when the field goal beat us. We lost, but that was when I fell in love with Wolfpack Football and have never looked back…. This game is mportant to me, kind of a homecoming of sorts………I have a good feeling it will be an impressive win.

  5. howlie 09/26/2009 at 7:33 AM #

    Thanks for the Barishnakov link. We’ve added ‘Swan Lake’ to our pregame tailgate, and look forward to seeing us plie’ and adage some Panther tutus.


  6. Greywolf 09/26/2009 at 9:53 AM #

    Watching the Pack in old Riddick (how can you call it a stadium?)… going to HS with Earl Edwards’ son… going to classes with Roman Gabrial… finding my son on Bo Rein’s shoulders at football camp… sitting in Carter Stadium with 4 seats on the 50 and 4 Wolves Den tickets… and all the things BJD95 mentioned makes for a memory bank of Wolfpack football that evens out the emotions of wins and losses. The divorce that made being in Carter-Finley unbearablely lonely without son, daughter and the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known. I’ve got season tickets in the RZ — a far different sight line thatn from the 50 — but my seatmate is a friend from college who played in the same backfield with Gabrial. Times are good again — win or lose.

    Go Pack!!

  7. phillypacker 09/26/2009 at 11:04 AM #

    That Penn State game rocked my young world. PSU was up 6-0 with about a minute left, State scored to make it 7-6 then PSU got the ball back deep in their territory. I remember thinking there was no way they would get into field goal range then I thought there is no way he can make this. Then the flight of the ball lasted an eternity as it fell over the crossbar. That was 1979. We beat PSU two years in a row, 12-7 and 15-14 in 1974 and 1975. Then we lost close games to them almost every year after that until the last game of the series in 1982, 54-0 PSU.

  8. Afterglow 09/26/2009 at 2:45 PM #

    BJD95-Great write up!

    I actually have a feeling that offensively we’re going to light it up in the second half. It seems Russell Wilson, for what ever reason, always seems to have a slow start and I don’t think our march of cup cakes the last two games is going to help him for the first half of this game; although I hope I’m wrong.

    I think our victory may just rely on defense-which I know isn’t saying much. Somehow I think they are going to sleep today-just a gut feeling.

    38-35 Pack victory on a last second field goal.

  9. Afterglow 09/26/2009 at 3:29 PM #

    Ah, once again time for the weekly question since it seems to change regularly; anyone know where I can listen or watch the game online?

  10. tobaccordshow 09/26/2009 at 8:20 PM #

    RW’s streak is alive thanks to some fantastic WR defensive plays turned offensive (I forget who snatched an INT and made a reception out of it).

  11. BJD95 09/26/2009 at 8:27 PM #

    ^ That was Jamelle Eugene, I’m pretty sure.

  12. ChemPack82 09/26/2009 at 8:32 PM #

    Good call on predicting the outcome, BJD95. This was a good game for any fan of college football and a great game for the Pack. RW is special, especially since he is only in his second year. Give credit to the solid hands of the receiving corps. This game may very well mark the start of a great run.

    BTW, any day UNx loses and the Pack wins…. WooHoo…

  13. packalum44 09/27/2009 at 11:33 AM #

    Good forecast minus the interception streak. Good to see RW run! We need him to do more of that. Also would like to see some designed plays for him to run. Despite the injuries from last year, we can’t coach or play scared.

  14. blpack 09/27/2009 at 2:16 PM #

    Glad to see RW is back. Now we can enter the ACC season on a hgh note and get some wins. Why not us?

  15. Classof89 09/28/2009 at 9:01 AM #

    I was at the Pitt game in 1986 also, albeit as a sophomore at NC State. Thanks for the great memory. We were a dreadful upset on the road with a gimpy quarterback against a poor Virginia team (featuring Tom O’ Brien on the coaching staff) from a 9-1-1 season and an ACC championship.

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