State isn’t satisfied yet
RALEIGH ó North Carolina State isnít satisfied with the improbable, late-season surge that made the Wolfpack bowl eligible.
Now that they know where theyíre headed and who theyíre playing, theyíre ready to get to work.
A day after N.C. State was selected to play Louisville in the Charlotte-based Belk Bowl, the Wolfpack began the process of preparing for the matchup of two teams that came on strong down the stretch.
ěTwo pretty hot teams coming into this,î OíBrien said Monday. ěTheyíve found their stride.î
So has the Wolfpack.
N.C. State (7-5) turned things around by winning five of seven games, capping off the rally by clawing back from a 27-point second-half deficit to beat Maryland in the finale and become bowl eligible.
The Cardinals (7-5), one of the nationís youngest teams, bounced back from a horrible start that included losses to Florida International and Marshall to win five of their last six and claim a share of the Big East title.
The playersí familiarity with Louisville generally has been limited to the game film of the Cardinalsí loss to North Carolina, which they studied ahead of their win over the Tar Heels.
Louisville was carried by its defense for much of the season ó the Cardinals rank 10th nationally against the run, allowing 1031/2 yards per game, and give up an average of 19 points. Their maturing offense led by freshman Teddy Bridgewater finally found itself, scoring in the 30s three times in its last four games. They won all three.
ěItíll be a learning process,î defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy said. ěYou get to know them. We have plenty of time to get to know them real well.î
N.C. State had its eyes on the Charlotte bowl for most of the year because itís a short trip for a huge chunk of a passionate fan base that travels in droves.
Athletic director Debbie Yow expects to sell out the schoolís allotment of 12,500 tickets for the Dec. 27 game at the nearly 74,000-seat home of the Carolina Panthers. Bowl executive director Will Webb said N.C. State sold nearly twice that many for its last visit in 2005.
ěWe consider Charlotte our second home,î Yow said.
N.C. Stateís position was solid even as the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conferenceís postseason lineup shuffled after Virginia Tech received a spot in the Sugar Bowl, giving the league two berths in BCS games for the first time.
Webb said he was ě90-plus percent sure the last two or three daysî but was afraid another bowl ahead of the Belk in the ACCís pecking order would snatch the Wolfpack.
ěWe didnít know absolutely, but we hoped that it was going to be Charlotte,î Yow said. ěI think we were bugging Will, really. … I think we made it clear that this is where we wanted to go.î
Meanwhile, the Cardinals obviously would rather have been in a BCS game.
Louisville, West Virginia and Cincinnati were tied atop the Big East and went 1-1 against each other. That meant the leagueís automatic berth in one of the five major bowls went to the team ranked highest in the final BCS standings ó West Virginia, which will play ACC champion Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
That had to come as a disappointment to the Cardinals after a photo made the rounds on Twitter showed two Louisville players celebrating in the locker room after the season-ending win at South Florida with oranges.
ěState and Louisville both fit the mold this year. They both started off a little disappointed with where they were at midseason. Both came along and won games they needed to win,î Webb said. ěYou always want teams that are finishing strong that are excited to be possibly coming to your city. You want teams that arenít deflated. … Theyíre always aiming for higher (bowls). I always tell Debbie every year, ëI hope you go to the BCS, but if not, for State, Charlotteís a perfect place for you all.íî
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