BY PATRICK KEARNEY
“This is our year, seriously…” If I had a dollar for every time I have uttered this statement to someone regarding NC State athletics, I could probably drop out of school and be a stay at home Fantasy Team Owner for the rest of my life. I have said it so much that nowadays when fans of opposing teams make fun of our fanbase for saying this yet again on the eve of whatever season is approaching, I don’t even get mad. I know we say it all the time,I know it sounds crazy, and I know that we will most likely continue to say similar things until one day our perpetual thirst for athletic greatness is achieved. I am only 21 years of age, so I have not been forced to witness some of the heartbreak that old-head NC State fans will begrudgingly recall.
This being said, I have witnessed enough horrors on behalf of the Wolfpack to last any opposing fan a lifetime. Allow me to walk you through some of these nightmares, and perhaps put into perspective why State fans will never stop believing the glory days will return.
The 2008 Wolfpack Football season ended with an incredible amount of promise for the Wolfpack. Russell Wilson had just become the first freshman in ACC History to be named to the All-ACC First team, we were returning several stud receivers and a linebacker you guys may have heard of by the name of Nate Irving. I was so excited that I finally convinced my dad to buy season tickets again, which he had vowed never to do again after we went 3-9 in 2006. That summer, in one of the crazier sports stories I have ever heard, Nate Irving was driving late at night on the highway and fell asleep at the wheel. He wrapped his SUV around a tree, punctured his lung and just about died that night. The prognosis was he would miss at least a year, if he could ever play again. We opened up the season at home on Thursday night against South Carolina in one of the loudest Carter Finley environments I have ever heard. Russell Wilson threw for 74 yards and we lost 7-3…7-3 folks, underwhelming doesn’t even do it justice.
The team managed to get our hopes up again after beating Pittsburgh to move to 3-1, only to bumble our way to a 5-7 record in what many including Colin Cowherd thought could be a 9-3 season. When we took the field for our last game of the season against North Carolina, we had the highest number of players out for the year with injury of any school in the nation. This is a prime example of State fans believing with sound statistical evidence that the Wolfpack would be a damn good product on the field, and for one reason or another it never materialized.
NOVEMBER 27th 2010
Coming into the last game of the season in Russell Wilson’s third year as a starter at NC State, all we had to do was beat the fighting Ralph Friedgens and Maryland to secure the ACC Atlantic title and a berth in the ACC Championship game against Virginia Tech in Charlotte. Earlier in the season, we were 4-0, ranked in the top 25 and were up 17-0 at home against Tyrod Taylor and Virginia Tech. Russell Wilson proceeded to throw three picks to Jayron Hosely and we lost 41-30. Needless to say, we were poised and ready to make up for giving the game away to ol’ Frank Beamer and the Hokies. The Thursday night before we played Maryland, my father bought two tickets for us to go to Charlotte and finally see our Wolfpack play for an ACC Championship. We even made plans to stay with my uncle in nearby Huntersville, and were thinking about catching a Panthers game the next day. We went up 14-0 against the Terps on a blustery day in College Park, with my dad even cracking a beer open and saying we were finally going to do it. As fate would have it, we would play a terrible rest of the game, get hosed by a quintessential Ron Cherry spotting mishap in the fourth quarter, and wound up losing 38-31. There wasn’t enough money my dad could scalp those tickets for to make up for the utter devastation felt by us and many others around Raleigh that day. The bowl trip to Orlando and a victory over a ranked, Geno Smith-led West Virginia team provided some solace, however we ended yet another season thinking of what could have been.
Going into Fall camp of 2015, I had never been more excited about a State team in my life. It was my second year being a manager for the team, and I just felt like we finally had something special brewing in Raleigh. We had Jacoby Brissett returning for his senior year, as well as All-ACC performers Matt Dayes and Shadrach Thornton alongside him in the backfield. We had won our last three games of 2014 with an impressive blowout of rival North Carolina in Chapel Hill and the annihilation of a scrappy UCF team in the Bitcoin Bowl. (RIP Bitcoin Bowl) Our offensive coordinator Matt Canada had turned down several SEC jobs in the offseason and was primed to continue our ridiculously balanced offense. As with anything to do with the Wolfpack, things just couldn’t work out the easy way. Within the first month of the season, Shadrach Thornton hit a pedestrian on a moped and due to his past run-ins with law enforcement, Coach Doeren thought it best that Shadrach would no longer be on the Wolfpack roster. After starting out 4-0, we hosted Louisville in a huge game at Carter Finley. Just our luck, the game was marred with bad weather from a hurricane, and Lamar Jackson decided to have his coming out party en route to a 28-13 loss to the Cardinals. The very next game, we played Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium in another game marred with torrential rains, and our offense was never able to get on track in a hard fought loss in Blacksburg. In the Clemson game, we lost Matt Dayes to a season ending foot injury because…go figure. To add on to our weather woes of that year, we played Dak Prescott and Mississippi State in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte in…wait for it….torrential rains the entire game. We lost by several touchdowns. Yet another season with so much promise that was adversely affected by extenuating circumstances…or as some would say…NC State Shit.
As many of my fellow State fans know, I could write a novel explaining all of the times that we have collectively been let down at the end of a season. I didn’t even touch on the basketball tragedies, or the He Who Must Not Be Named punt return when ol’ TOB decided to kick it to him. The beauty of it is though, when our time does come, it will be electric in this town. NC State is a sleeping giant folks. We have amazing facilities and that is not hyperbole. Our donor pool and attendance records are impeccable. The loyalty of our fans, combined with our facilities and our proximity to recruiting hotbeds make for a program with uncharted potential. We just have to find the recipe one way or another. State fans may be crazy, but we have our reasons. The moment that glass slipper fits once again, it will all be worth it.