11 days to kickoff – 11 memorable non-conference games

Today, there are 11 days until NC State kicks off their 2015 campaign against the Troy Trojans at Carter-Finley Stadium. In anticipation of the season, one in which measured optimism is everywhere in regards to the Pack, I thought it would be cool to look back at some of the most memorable non-conference games that the Wolfpack has played in.

To set up my boundaries, I limited it the non-conference games over the last 20 years. With 11 days to kickoff, here is one guy’s list of the 11 most memorable non-conference games over the last 20 years (not necessarily top 11 wins, but top 11 memorable games).

11. 1998 Ohio at NC State. Is this really one of the top 11 games? You wouldn’t think so just by seeing the MAC team as the visiting team. However, this was memorable for a couple of reasons. First, this game was played in a rainstorm as Hurricane Earl was stopping by for a visit. It was pretty bad most of the night, which negated a lot of the speed the Wolfpack had over the Bobcats. With under two minutes to go, State was down 31-27 and it appeared that a big upset was going to take place. But Roderick Brown broke through on a punt, blocked it, and under-appreciated WR Chris Coleman scooped it up and scored a touchdown to win 34-31. The second reason this was memorable was that it gave the team a jolt of confidence it needed before the following week’s visit by #2 Florida State. Chris Weinke came to town and threw 6 interceptions and Torry Holt torched the FSU defense again as the Pack upset the Seminoles 24-7. In my opinion, if State doesn’t beat Ohio, no way do they beat FSU the next week.

10. 1999 South Carolina at NC State. This was a match-up of Mike O’Cain and Lou Holtz. Holtz was returning to Carter-Finley after coaching the Pack in the mid-70s. When the coaches talked before the game on the field, it was reported that Holtz looked around at the stadium and said that nothing had changed here since he left. The game wasn’t that interesting as Holtz didn’t have a good team that year in Columbia as State shut out the Gamecocks 10-0. It was not long after that season that long needed upgrades to Carter-Finley Stadium began in earnest.

9. 2004 Ohio State at NC State. In the past 20 years, this non-conference tilt between Ohio State and NC State easily was the hardest ticket to buy on the secondary market. Everyone wanted to be at this game. The previous year, the two teams had played a 44-38 three overtime game in Columbus. The fanbase was really looking forward to seeing the rematch. The game was a defensive struggle throughout. The difference in the game was Ohio State kicker Mike Nugent, who kicked a school record 5 field goals in a 22-14 victory. The Pack, who limited the Ohio State offense to 137 yards, aided the Buckeyes by having 4 turnovers.

8. 2012 Tennessee vs. NC State. The Chick Fil-a Kick-Off Classic in Atlanta in the Georgia Dome was host to the Vols and the Pack to open the season on a Friday night in late August. The Pack was lead by Mike Glennon while the Vols countered with Tyler Bray. With State leading 7-6 after a Tony Creecy touchdown, the Vols exploded for 16 points in 38 seconds to take command of the game. Glennon threw four interceptions and the defense gave up 3 long touchdown plays in the first quarter, two to JUCO transfer (and future first round draft pick of the Vikings) Cordarrelle Patterson. The showcase game was a good stage for the Wolfpack to be on but they didn’t play well enough to leave the Georgia Dome with a victory as the Vols won 35-21.

7. 2000 NC State at Indiana. After coming back to beat Arkansas State in overtime to start off the Amato era, week 2 was a trip to Big 10 country to face Indiana. Although not your Big 10 power, the Hoosiers jumped out to a 28-13 halftime lead and entering the fourth quarter, the Hoosiers had a commanding 35-20 lead. But young freshman Philip Rivers lead a comeback for the ages and when Koren Robinson caught a 47 yard TD pass with 54 seconds left, the comeback was complete as the Pack won 41-38. Rivers threw for 401 yards. Amato said afterwards that after the first two comeback wins, the entire team believed every word the coaches said the rest of the season.

6. 2000 Arkansas State at NC State. The Chuck Amato era began against Arkansas State, a school that not many of the Carter-Finley faithful had probably ever heard of. The Amato era started out with a true freshman, Philip Rivers, as the quarterback. A new coach with a true freshman QB. A recipe for a potential disaster. Down 17-7 in the 3rd quarter, lots of people were sensing that disaster. It took a field goal on the last play of regulation by Kent Passigham to send the game to overtime. In the second OT, Ray Robinson scored a touchdown and then the defense caused a fumble to secure the opening game 38-31 victory. Rivers passed for 397 yards and three touchdowns. Little did we know that similar results were in store for the next week.

5. 2002 NC State at Navy. The Wolfpack went to Annapolis undefeated. As a fan in the stands, spending time in Annapolis, the academy, and the surrounding area was a great memory. Watching the midshipmen march into the stadium was one of the coolest sights I have seen as a Wolfpack fan. As far as the game, Philip Rivers and the Pack were up 21-0 in less than four minutes into the game while Navy had run 2 plays. The Wolfpack cruised to a 65-19 win. In getting blasted by the Pack, Paul Johnson…yes, the same Paul Johnson who is the Georgia Tech coach now, said this about the game:

“That was the worst [loss] for me ever,” said Johnson, who went 62-10 at Georgia Southern before coming to Navy in December. “It wasn’t a lot of fun. I’ve been on the other end of a few of these games, but not this end.”

4. 1998 Syracuse at NC State. These bitter ACC rivals…oops, they were non-conference foes on this day, were in a rematch of a scintillating Wolfpack overtime victory the previous year. This time, the 11th ranked Orange came to Raleigh on a Thursday night. The focus was on Donovan McNabb, who was one of the leading Heisman contenders at the time. The Pack was coming off a painful loss at Baylor the week before, which took a little luster off the upset over Florida State. This time, NC State did not need any overtime, as they jumped out to a 28-10 halftime lead while holding McNabb to 17 first half yards. The defense completely destroyed any Heisman campaign as the Wolfpack won 38-17, finished off with the goalposts coming down for a second time in three weeks.

Start at 7:15 to see the Syracuse game highlights.

3. 1999 NC State at Texas. The start of a new football season, which also turned out to be Mike O’Cain’s last, was highlighted by a prime time game in Austin against Major Applewhite, Mack Brown, and the Texas Longhorns. The Wolfpack, with new look helmets, were not given much of a chance to win the game or even really compete against the Longhorns. If you look at the final stats, you would agree with that assessment. The Longhorns outgained the Pack 372-171. The Pack had the ball for 6 minutes in the second half. Just hearing that, you know that Texas won the game. WRONG! Don’t forget about special teams. Terrence Holt blocked 2 punts as the Wolfpack blocked 3 punts total that resulted in 16 points. The final block, with just over 3 minutes to go, was returned for a TD and that gave the Pack the final points needed in a surprising 23-20 victory.

Watch the first three minutes for highlights from the Texas game:

2. 1997 NC State at Syracuse. The start of the season had the Wolfpack traveling up north to Syracuse. Donovan McNabb was supposed to be the better quarterback when compared to Jamie Barnette. The Pack was coming off of a second consecutive 3-8 season while 13th ranked Syracuse was coming off a 34-0 thrashing of Wisconsin in the Kickoff Classic. Even though the Orange jumped out to a 14-0 lead, the Pack never gave up and started clicking and got the game into overtime tied at 24. After Syracuse scored, the Wolfpack quickly scored a touchdown. O’Cain had already decided to go for two points and the win. A confused defense lead to an easy pitch and catch from Barnette to Holt as the Wolfpack stunned the Orange 32-31.

As North Carolina State lined up for the 2-point conversion to go for the victory, passing up the safe point after, the Wolfpack could see the fear and confusion in the eyes of the Syracuse defenders. That made the pass from Jamie Barnette to Torry Holt, who was streaking into the left corner of the end zone, almost a formality, capping a 32-31 upset that the Wolfpack knew it had as soon as it hit the line of scrimmage.

”Two plays before we scored, I said we’re going for 2,” North Carolina State Coach Mike O’Cain said. ”I didn’t know what defense they would be in, but what I felt was they weren’t confident. They’re thinking: ‘We just got hit. We just got a touchdown scored against us. This game should have been over a long time ago. This game shouldn’t be like this.’

”They were not a confident team at that point, and it was the time to attack them.”

North Carolina State tight end Mark Thomas said: ”I think we kind of surprised them. They have a young defense and when a defense sees an offense that has confidence, it kind of puts a question in their mind. When we got up to the line, it wasn’t about what they were going to do. It was what we were going to do and what we were going to get done. They weren’t really ready. We saw them jostling around, and we could see they were in a formation that we wanted.”

1. 2003 NC State at Ohio State. The Wolfpack, lead by senior Heisman candidate Philip Rivers, traveled to Columbus to take on the defending national champion Buckeyes. The game was to highlight the two best sophomore running backs in America, TA McLendon and Maurice Clarett. With McLendon limited due to injury and Clarett suspended, the story arc changed but the quality of the game was not diminished. Halfway through the fourth quarter, the Buckeyes were up 24-7. But Rivers lead the Pack on a furious rally to send the game to overtime. After two overtimes with two touchdowns each, the teams went to a 3rd overtime. The Buckeyes scored but missed on the 2 point conversion. The Pack had a first down at the 5 yard line and looked like they were destined to score. 2 quarterback sneaks got the ball to the 2 but on 4th down McLendon was stopped inches short of the goal line. The Buckeyes held on for a 44-38 victory which was an instant classic. I have watched the replay a few times, but can only watch it through the second OT.

Did I miss any? It was hard choosing a loss as the most memorable non-conference game over the last 20 years, but being in attendance and as good of a game that was, to me it was the most memorable. Hopefully, the next few years we will be able to add new games to this list with games against Mississippi State and West Virginia coming up.

About ruffles31

1996 NC State graduate who is still waiting on his first ACC conference championship in any of the four main revenue sports (football, men's basketball, women's basketball, and baseball) since enrolling. All I want is a ACC Champions t-shirt.

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Home Forums 11 days to kickoff – 11 memorable non-conference games

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    Today, there are 11 days until NC State kicks off their 2015 campaign against the Troy Trojans at Carter-Finley Stadium. In anticipation of the season
    [See the full post at: 11 days to kickoff – 11 memorable non-conference games]


    Last 20 years? Youngsters!!! (SMH)

    54 yd FG by Penn State to win as time expires.
    I still have scars from that one.

    Beating Penn St in Happy Valley when Johnny Evans was the QB. I wasn’t there, but my uncle that was told the story of Evans’ quick kick about 100 times (and I didn’t get to see him that often).

    TD catch by Peebles in an untimed down against South Carolina.


    Great reminder of past games. Here’s one at the top, in the 30 year window. And considering recent events, gives a shout out to Eric Kramer.
    SC at State in 1986. We started the 2nd 1/2 with good lead but SC powered their way back. Two field goals (defense led by Ray Agnew and company holding on but no help from offense) and TD by SC. And then we throw a pick, they get a another TD +2 to take 6 point lead. We trade possessions and get the ball back near their 40 off a poor punt with 33 seconds left. And then on what looked to be the last play of the game, their D linemen jumps over the O line and pulls down Kramer, replay clearly shows he’s offsides and jumps early. One last play, untimed because no time on the clock, hail Mary to Danny Peoples in traffic. Big Time WIN!


    Good Read Ruffles. The @Texas Tech game with Chuck and TA was one I enjoyed as well.

    But yes, I would have to go back an include the 70s as well. The 74 Penn State game, The 75 Florida game, and the 79 Penn State game. Wish I could find a video replay of all three of those. They were incredible and all at The Carter.


    Kramer beat the Chickens heroically the year before in Columbia, too. No teevee, but it sounded incredible on the radio. Only played the 4th quarter because he was supposed to be out with a hernia.

    I was in the end zone, surrounded by Chickens fans (most were costumed) for that untimed down. Probably my very best wolven memory outside of 1983.

    The Penn State heartbreak is, swear to God, the very first thing I can remember from my childhood. I remember how loud C/F was, then how dead silent.


    Good Read Ruffles. The @Texas Tech game with Chuck and TA was one I enjoyed as well.

    Good call on one that fits in the 20 year time frame.


    Which Texas Tech game? For what it’s worth, I’m goin’ for the shootout in Lubbock.

    Oh,and Syracuse circa ’72. My first game in Red and White. Pretty memorable…for me.


    I remember a last-possession TD drive to beat the Chickens (’75?)…ABC regional TV IIRC-Gamecock students held up a large endzone sign that read: ‘Hello ABC-nobody can lick our Cocks’.


    ^^ I assume the 5 TD TA game?

    That @ Ohio State game was epic. Thanks for the link. I’ve looked for a download for a while now, but haven’t been successful. If only it could have turned out slightly different.


    Yes, the Shoot Out with Texas Tech with Freshman TA Mclendon scoring five touchdowns after entering the game late due to punishment for oversleeping and missing a team meeting that morning.



    Most memorable non-conference Wolfpack game EVER was the Saturday night 16-6 win over #2 Houston in the Astrodome.

    I still think it’s the biggest non-conference win ever for Wolfpack football. It wasn’t televised back in 1967, so we listened to it on WPTF radio. A friend of mine who was there that night (he was stationed there) told me that State completely dominated that game, that they were bigger and stronger than the Cougars.

    And that season featured perhaps the second most memorable non-conference game as well, the 13-8 loss at Penn State on a failed 4th down try on the goal line. Again, no tv.

    Had the 8-0 Wolfpack won that one, oh what might have been. Just like Columbus.


    Don’t know if bowl games fit the criteria, but the 2003 Gator Bowl win was especially memorable to me; I still recall the great feeling of satisfaction at having thrashed Notre Dame (granted, a less-than stellar, lucky to be there ND) in a New Year’s Day bowl.

    I would put that ahead of our home-end of the home-&-home w/ Ohio State: that was a pretty embarrassing display of lack of discipline in our 1st year “After Rivers”, e.g., the throat-slashing gesture, 100+ yards of penalties, plus the previously mentioned turnovers, may have been the beginning of the end for Chuck-the-Chest.


    That Navy game was a whole lot of fun. We sat in a Navy section and talked with all the Navy grads around us…grads from the ’60’s & 70’s. Very memorable experience. I believe Philip was 10-15 with 5 TD passes that day.


    Man, watching stuff pre-HD makes it look so old. It’s like ancient film footage discovered in a cave or something; not something from only 15 years ago.


    Another one that comes to mind is the 1996 game against Alabama where Jamie Barnette got his first start as a RS freshman. We didn’t win, but it was right down to the wire. If I recall correctly, Barnette was starting because O’Cain suspended Laureano.


    The impossible inconsistency of that ’98 team. In the span of a month we barely beat Ohio, then owned FSU, then got wholly embarrassed at Baylor, then pounded Syracuse. The rest of the season was the same — when we were bad, we were BAD.

    If you make a counter to this list, Baylor ’98 and USC 2008-09 have to be Top 3, right?

    jimi eno47

    Well, I just discovered that you can only praise the team …

    No what you discovered is that we like to keep the comments focused on the topic of the entry.


    ^ Might have been a system glitch. You most assuredly can post things other than candy and sunshine. Hell, we’d be out of business if that were true.

    The Shad stuff is being talked about to some degree toward the end of this thread, so have at it.




    I thought about doing a worst non-conference list but that would just be depressing. Yes, the two South Carolina games are there along with both Baylor games. Remember the 95 game where State lost 14-0 in a cold rain and I think State had something like 90 yards offense and 2 first downs. Ouch.

    And the UCF game in 2006 to begin the TOB era. First play of the era, UCF goes 80 yards on an off-tackle run. Ouch again.

    Akron 2006. He didn’t make it (although it never should have come down to one play…ever):

    Akron Closeup

    And there are several other ECU games I could add.

    Way too painful of a post


    Well, I just discovered that you can only praise the team …

    No what you discovered is that we like to keep the comments focused on the topic of the entry. We don’t spend time putting together an entry and then allow the comments to address anything under the world. Shad’s punishment was being discussed in the “A Couple of Football Notes” thread and has absolutely zero relevance to a discussion on memorable non-conference games.

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