North Carolina State has been here before. Last season the Wolfpack hosted No. 3 Florida State on a Thursday night and pulled a major upset within ACC play by battling back from a 16-3 deficit to upset the Seminoles. The loss took Florida State out of the BCS championship picture (Florida State would lose again to Florida with the BCS Championship well out of reach) but NC State went up an down the rest of the way to a 7-6 record. On thursday night NC State looks to pull another Thursday night upset of the ACC’s top BCS contender, No. 3 Clemson.
“Obviously we’re excited for the opportunity to coach and play against a great team like Clemson on a national stage, and these are the kind of games that players and coaches alike all joined up to do these things because of this kind of opportunity,” NC State head coach Dave Doeren said during the ACC coaches teleconference Wednesday.
Doeren is no stranger to weekday games of course, having coached in the MAC the last two seasons at Northern Illinois. Despite having coached a handful of games during the week before, even Doeren is anticipating an electric atmosphere in Raleigh Thursday night.
“I haven’t been here for a Thursday night game, but from what I understand the people really pack it in,” Doeren said. “Everyone has been talking about it in town here for the last 10 days, so I know the people are excited to be here and support the team.”
NC State is off to a 2-0 start this season and can take advantage of the national spotlight Thursday night. Other than the NFL game in Philadelphia between the Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs (you may have heard a bit about this one), the ACC game between Clemson and NC State is the only game on the football calendar. If the Wolfpack were to score the upset, it could benefit the program when it comes time for pollsters to cast their weekly ballots. The last time NC State was ranked in the AP Top 25 was the final week of the 2010 season. A loss to Maryland knocked the Wolfpack out before a bowl game against West Virginia and they have yet to return to the polls since. This was a team that had Russell Wilson playing quarterback. He has payed for two different teams since then, Wisconsin and the Seattle Seahawks.
Doeren has told his players this is an opportunity to do something special.
“I told our players yesterday, how many times do you get to play where you’re one of the only games on TV in front of a sold-out crowd against a top ten team,” Doeren explained Wednesday. “I mean, just relish the moment, enjoy the moment, and really understand how lucky you are to be in that situation and go out there and give everything you have.”
How lucky will NC State have to be to beat Clemson?