Wolfpack blanks Heels
Published 9:35 pm Saturday, November 5, 2011
RALEIGH — As the final seconds ticked away, North Carolina State’s players on the sideline extended their hands into the air and held up all five fingers for the home crowd to see. When the celebration made its way across the field, the fans offered those five-fingered waves right back.
These days, beating North Carolina is becoming a tradition for N.C. State’s players, students and fans. And this time, the Tar Heels didn’t put up a whole lot of fight to stop it.
Mike Glennon threw a touchdown pass to help N.C. State beat North Carolina 13-0 on Saturday, earning a fifth straight win against its nearby rival as well as its first shutout win in the series in more than five decades.
It’s the first time the Wolfpack (5-4, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) has taken five straight meetings with the Tar Heels (6-4, 2-4) since 1988-92. And it once again proved that coach Tom O’Brien — still unbeaten against UNC — knows how to win the most important game to the Wolfpack’s fan base.
“I never play this for me,” O’Brien said. “My job is to make sure I help them do everything they can to get ready to play the football game. That being said, I’m certainly going to enjoy this one tonight. I can promise you that.”
The rivalry got a little extra spice late in the week when O’Brien and North Carolina interim coach Everett Withers traded verbal jabs about graduation rates and the lingering NCAA investigation of the UNC program.
The tiff seemed to give N.C. State’s players extra juice for this one, so much so that linebacker Terrell Manning said he’d like to “give the Carolina head coach some money for helping us out.”
O’Brien and N.C. State got the last word by celebrating the Wolfpack’s first shutout of UNC since 1960, its first shutout of an ACC opponent in a decade and the first in five seasons under the coach.
“Coach O’Brien has never been one to run off at the mouth, so anytime he steps up and says something to defend us, we’ve got to have his back,” Manning said.
The Tar Heels now can look forward to another year of hearing about the losing streak.
“This is a big game in this state,” Withers said. “This is supposed to be a rivalry, and it’s supposed to eat at you. It’s supposed to get to you when you lose, and you’re supposed to remember it, get better and come back the next year and try to do something about it.”
James Washington ran for 110 yards for N.C. State, which again saved its best for the Tar Heels in a surprisingly one-sided — and often ugly — contest. The Wolfpack ranked in the bottom half of the league’s defensive statistics, but shut down freshman runner Giovani Bernard and knocked starting quarterback Bryn Renner from the game by the end of the third quarter to give UNC its first shutout loss since 2006.
Manning had 11 tackles and a sack to lead a unit that had four sacks and three interceptions. That made it easy on Glennon, who threw an interception on the first drive but protected the ball the rest of the day. His touchdown pass was a 12-yard scoring strike to T.J. Graham in the back of the end zone on N.C. State’s second drive. Niklas Sade added two short field goals.
“When they’re playing that well on defense, it just helps the offense’s confidence,” Glennon said. “You kind of feel like you’re playing downhill all game knowing that if we have to punt, it’s not really a bad thing because our defense is going to hold them.”
The Tar Heels managed minus-7 yards through the first quarter, 32 through the first half and finished with 165 — including just 3 yards on the ground. While Bernard became the first Tar Heel in 14 years to run for more than 1,000 yards in a season, he managed just 47 yards on 18 carries. Meanwhile, Renner threw for 76 yards with two interceptions before leaving the game with concussion-like symptoms late in the third.
The closest thing the Tar Heels had to a highlight came when Renner found Dwight Jones with a midrange pass that Jones turned into a 74-yard touchdown early in the second quarter, but a holding call wiped out the score. In addition, Renner took a hard hit on the throw and got up gingerly. He never looked right the rest of the game, even leaving briefly late in the first half and going to the locker room while Braden Hanson stepped under center.
Hanson took over late in the third and threw for 86 yards with an interception, but he didn’t get the Tar Heels any closer to a score.
“I think a lot of guys just looked at their record and thought, ‘OK, their record isn’t as good as ours. They’re not going to be as good as us,’” Bernard said. “But I think coming into a rivalry game like this, the record really doesn’t matter. … The score showed that they had more heart than us and played harder than we did.”