RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Chuck Amato is now part of the two best
starts in the history of North Carolina State football.
Philip Rivers threw for a season-high 364 yards and two
touchdowns as the Wolfpack (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 13 AP) beat Duke 24-22 Saturday to
match the 1967 team at 8-0.
Amato, in his third season as N.C. State's head coach, was a
senior linebacker on that team 35 years ago.
"This isn't about Chuck Amato,'' he said. "That other team was
so long ago, they don't even have snapshots of that stuff. This is
about North Carolina State's football team and the university and
those young men playing the game today.''
"I can't play the game today,'' Amato added. "Well, maybe a
couple of snaps.''
Amato could joke 30 minutes after the game, but there were some
tense moments for the Wolfpack against a team that was a 24-point
underdog and lost its 21st straight conference game.
The two-point win, N.C. State's third straight in the ACC, came
in front of scouts from the Fiesta and Sugar bowls.
"You look back on this game, and we won,'' Rivers said.
"That's the No. 1 goal, whether it's 2-0 or whatever the score is.
I think it helps you get better. Maybe it wakes you up a little bit
and says, 'Yeah, we're ranked 13th,' but we've got to come every
week and play our best to win every week.''
N.C. State went into the fourth quarter leading 17-12, with the
home crowd restless and the entire team gathered around Amato for
one last pep talk.
Amato's defense responded to his speech about playing with more
intensity, sacking Duke quarterback Adam Smith three times in the
final quarter as the Wolfpack matched the best start in the
program's 111 years.
"As many years as they've had football here, and to be one of
two to do it, it's great,'' Rivers said. "Now the goal is to be
9-0 and the only one ever.''
Rivers came through in the final five minutes, hitting Jerricho
Cotchery down the right sideline for a 53-yard scoring play with
Adam Smith threw a 40-yard TD pass with 16 seconds left to cap
his 353-yard day, and Duke recovered an onside kick at the
Wolfpack's 49. But after three incompletions, Brent Garber's
65-yard field goal attempt was more than 10 yards short. Garber's
career-best is 56 yards and he's made some from 71 yards in
"We went out there and the wind started blowing in my face,''
said Garber, whose 52-yarder earlier in the game was good by more
than 10 yards. "That's a tough one. I'm not sure with that kind of
wind I could hit it more than one out of 10 times.''
Rivers finished 26-for-37, but the Wolfpack, third in the nation
in scoring at 43.7, were held to a season-low point total in
beating Duke (2-6, 0-4) for the ninth straight time.
"Things like this are going to happen, but you know what, there
was no nervousness on the sideline, no panic on the sideline, there
was no flinching on the sideline,'' Amato said.
"To have a great year you are going to have those games. I hope
we have no more, but I'll take five more. It's a happy time right
Chris Douglas went up the middle for a 41-yard scoring run late
in the third quarter, and Garber's 45-yarder with 10:41 pulled Duke
But after driving to N.C. State's 23 with the game hanging in
the balance, Smith was sacked twice in a row to push Duke out of
field-goal range. A series later, Smith was sacked on third down.
"We came out flat,'' senior linebacker Dantonio Burnette said.
"We weren't getting the job done. We've got to correct that if we
want to be a national championship-type of team or a contender.''
N.C. State played without three starters: Sean Berton (TE) sat
out with a bad ankle, while Shawn Price (DE) and Greg Golden (DB)
were suspended for violating team rules.
Rivers was almost intercepted on the first play from scrimmage,
then he completed seven straight passes on the Wolfpack's opening
80-yard scoring drive, capping it with a 6-yard scramble. It was
the seventh straight game N.C. State scored on its first
Two big passing plays on Duke's next two possessions -- one for
44 yards and another for 36 -- were wasted when the Blue Devils
failed to convert on a pair of fourth-down plays.
Smith was sacked on a fourth-and-1 at the 11, and Garber was
thrown for a 14-yard loss 3½ minutes later on a fake field goal.
"I decided that before the game, so I'm not going to look back
on it,'' Duke coach Carl Franks said. "Now you can say, `What if
you kicked the field goal?' Who knows what the flow of the game
would have been?