NC State quietly accomplished something last season that was so impressive even former quarterback Philip Rivers took the time to acknowledge it.
For the first time since 1992, the Wolfpack managed to beat Maryland, Clemson and North Carolina in the same year.
“It’s been so long even Philip Rivers texted me about that,” coach Tom O’Brien said. “He knew that.”
Welcome back, NC State.
There is something to be said for positive momentum, and NC State caught a whirlwind of it in the second half of the 2011 season and carried it into this past spring. After a dreadful 2-3 start that included an 0-2 record in league play, NC State rebounded to win four of its last five games, including an upset of No. 7-ranked Clemson, and a 31-24 win over Louisville in the Belk Bowl.
“I think it was certainly positive momentum,” O’Brien. “All of that carries over. Certainly when you’re looking down the barrel and playing Tennessee on a Friday night in Atlanta, that gets your attention also.”
NC State will face the Volunteers on Aug. 31 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff, one of two meaningful matchups for the ACC against the SEC, as Clemson will face Auburn in Atlanta on Sept. 1. The key is for NC State to finally start strong – not just finish that way. O’Brien has entered October with a losing record in three of each of his past five seasons in Raleigh.
“The first two games are going to be difficult games,” O’Brien said. “We go on the road and play and SEC team, and have to go play a Big East team, and obviously he Big East isn’t real happy with the ACC. And Connecticut’s never been happy with me. There’s no telling what’s going to happen the first two games, but it’s a little different start for us. It’s challenging and after the first two weeks we’ll assess if we played well or not. If you play well and lose, it’s one thing; if you played bad and lose, it’s another. But if you win both of them, that’s a good kick-start to the season.”
A 2-0 start would also be two big reasons to pay closer attention to NC State this fall.