Wolfpack bowls over Deacs
During the pregame meal, N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien reminded his team that it was at a crossroads following a devastating loss to Virginia a week earlier.
“I asked them which road were we going to take, the road to the bowl game or the road not to the bowl game,” O’Brien said. “Our goal when we left the practice field was to add a 2012 to the sign listing all those years we’ve gone to a bowl. We’ve got that done.”
The Wolfpack chose the path to the bowl in impressive fashion, picking up their sixth win and becoming bowl eligible at 6-4, 3-3 ACC by making a five-course feast out of Wake Forest in winning 37-6 at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“You felt it in practice this week and in pregame that we ready,” said State quarterback Mike Glennon, who completed 25 of 41 passes for 258 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. “We had a little more energy than last week and it showed.”
The energy resulted in the Wolfpack rolling up 428 yards on 94 plays and reviving its ground game, gouging the Deacons for 170 yards rushing that included 112 by freshman Shadrack Thornton.
The Demon Deacons, who had trouble moving the ball and gained just 185 yards, dropped to 5-5, 3-5 and were sent on a tough bowl eligibility path with Notre Dame and Vanderbilt left.
“We were disappointed with how we played against Virginia, obviously,” said State linebacker Rickey Dowdy, a High Point Central product. “Coaches told we had to play harder, play faster and tackle better. What we practiced on our end was tackling.”
The Wolfpack defense, led by Dowdy’s seven stops, tackled well enough to hold quarterback Tanner Price to just 113 yards passing as he completed 18 of 33 attempts, and held the Deacons to just 16 net yards rushing.
“We had some issues up front both running and throwing the football,” Wake coach Jim Grobe said. “Our receivers has opportunities to make plays and didn’t. And Tanner didn’t play well. And he can’t play average. If he does we can’t win.”
They also held Michael Campanaro to five catches for 14 yards, a week after he caught 16.
“We worked hard all week on No. 3 (Campanaro),” O’Brien said. “Dante Johnson was matched up with him and did a great job.”
O’Brien attributed the improvement in the Wolfpack’s play to better mental attitude.
“We had a devastating loss two weeks ago (against North Carolina) and just didn’t get across to them that Virginia was going to come in ready to play, “ O’Brien said. “There was no fire, no passion. It’s up to them. They have to get it done.”
The Pack had plenty of fire from the start, scoring on three of their first four possessions to lead 17-0 by the end of the first quarter. Wake improved on defense in the second quarter, holding the Wolfpack in check while mustering its lone highlight when Campanaro took a pass from Price and tossed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Davis.
But, State settled the issue for all practical purposes in the third quarter. Tobias Palmer tied a school record when he returned the opening kickoff of the half 100 yards for a touchdown.
“We felt good at halftime, going in down just 17-6, especially as poorly as we played in the first half,” Grobe said. “I thought we had the team fired up for the second half but that kick took the wind out of our sails.”