TA was in! Gio’s gone! Unforgettable moments define NC State-UNC rivalry

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Raleigh, N.C. — Rivalry week is here for NC State, and Dave Doeren summed it up best on Monday in his press conference.

“You look at records in these games and they don’t matter,” Doeren said. “It’s always going to be an emotional game where both teams are playing for a lot.”

This series has proven without a doubt that the records – and who is favored – don’t matter. No one knows what will happen in a rivalry game as emotional as State-Carolina.

Last season, North Carolina was favored by 10 points with the Wolfpack limping into the contest in Chapel Hill and on the brink of missing a bowl. What happened? NC State jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter, closing out the deal 28-21 in a huge victory for Doeren.

“It’s about these players and these coaches hanging together amid a lot of heartbreaking days and negativity and doubt,” Doeren said after the win. “Guys just kept fighting with each other and for each other and they knew where our program is headed. Today was about mastering ourselves and finding a way to win and doing it against our rival.”

• Inside the Rivalry: NCSU vs. UNC Football

Doeren’s first win in the series came in 2014 when the Wolfpack defeated North Carolina 35-7, this time as a seven-point underdog, with the shutout ending on a meaningless touchdown in the final two minutes.

The Wolfpack rushed for a staggering 388 yards and starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who accounted for 167 of those rushing yards, only had to attempt 11 passes in the blowout win. That performance led to Doeren’s memorable remarks on the culture within his football program.

“This is a blue-collar school… a work ethic, hands in the dirt school,” said Doeren. “It was founded by tough people. That is what this football team will be.”

As with rivalries, they all certainly haven’t gone the Wolfpack’s way. North Carolina has won the last two games played in Carter-Finley Stadium, including a 45-34 rout in 2015 when the Tar Heels jumped out to a 35-7 advantage on their way to winning the Coastal Division championship.

We can go on and on, but what makes this rivalry really special isn’t the unexpected outcomes. It is the memorable moments.

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Wolfpack, Heels going in different directions after bye weeks

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The first NC State-North Carolina game I covered as a media member was in 2004 in Chapel Hill. NC State marched up and down the field, totaling 577 yards of offense to just 356 for the Tar Heels, but lost the turnover battle 3-0.

The Wolfpack lost 30-24, and ultimately, it was the one yard T.A. McLendon didn’t get that proved to be the difference that night.

For North Carolina fans, that goal line stand ranks right up there with the Gio Bernard punt return for a touchdown in 2012. NC State fans will never forget the Russell Wilson “Hail Mary” in 2010 or freshman gunslinger Philip Rivers catching a touchdown pass in the 38-20 rout in Chapel Hill in 2000.

This season NC State is favored by 17.5 points, easily the largest spread in recent memory. However, the road team has won the last four matchups which should give the Tar Heels, who are riding a two-game winning streak despite being 3-8 overall, added confidence.

Doeren reiterated his thoughts on the rivalry when asked about North Carolina’s struggles this season.

“I don’t really think it matters what their record is in this game. “I know it didn’t for us last year when we played them.”

No one knows what is going to happen on Saturday, but it certainly will be memorable.

James Henderson is the editor of InsidePackSports.com, which covers NC State athletics. You can follow James on Twitter for more coverage of the Wolfpack.

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