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November 2, 2013
NC State couldn't make enough big plays nor overcome its own mistakes to win its rivalry game Saturday against North Carolina.
NC State first-year coach Dave Doeren took part in his first Wolfpack/Tar Heels rivalry game, and already came away with motivation following the 27-19 loss. Some UNC players celebrated at midfield on NCSU's new image of the state of North Carolina with a mascot logo following the game.
Doeren and the Wolfpack players were clearly not happy about the situation, but also dismayed by having a game slip away from their grasps. NC State fell to 3-5 overall and 0-5 in the ACC, and play at Duke next Saturday in its attempt to get three more wins in the final four games to become bowl eligible. UNC improved to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the league.
"It came down to mistakes for us," Doeren said. "We made too many. We threw the ball to them in the second half, forcing some passes. We threw some balls we shouldn't have thrown. There is not margin for error on offense when you play like that."
NC State moved the ball well at times, but also ended up kicking four Niklas Sade field goals from 20, 38, 44 and 28 yards out. The last one represented NC State's only points in the second half.
"We have to quit getting in the red zone and kicking field goals," Doeren said. "We need to get some touchdowns down there, and that's the other of improvement we need to see to get to a bowl game."
NCSU fifth-year senior quarterback Brandon Mitchell, who was in his second game back from his season-opening foot injury, hurt the Tar Heels with his feet in the first half an finished with 105 rushing yards on 21 carries. He became the first NC State quarterback to top the century mark since Johnny Evans did it twice in 1976.
Mitchell feel for the passing game hurt him in the second half with two interceptions and some near picks, which prompted Doeren to put in redshirt junior quarterback Pete Thomas at the end. Thomas couldn't conjure up the magic for a comeback victory, but Doeren was non-committal over who would be the starter against Duke.
"He [Mitchell] was forcing balls into coverage that I told him he couldn't throw," Doeren said. "I said 'If it is not there, throw it away,' and he didn't, so I took it out."
UNC didn't score any points from either Mitchell interception, who finished the game 10-of-22 passing for 130 yards. Mitchell bemoaned missing redshirt junior fullback Tyler Purvis, who was wide open for a potential touchdown.
"We just didn't make plays and those two turnovers I had just killed us," Mitchell said. "We just have to finish and keep going out there and competing."
Conversely, NC State redshirt sophomore cornerback Juston Burris helped gift-wrap the Wolfpack's first chance at getting points on the board. Burris picked off UNC quarterback Bryn Renner at the Tar Heels' 24-yard line. Mitchell eventually plunged in for a six-yard touchdown run to give the Wolfpack an early 7-0 lead with 12:47 left in the first quarter. Sade tacked on his first of four field goals to stretch the lead to 10-0 with 7:24 remaining in the first.
UNC sophomore wide receiver Quinshad Davis got the Tar Heels on the board for the first of two touchdowns. He went up in the corner of the end zone for a two-yard score to cut the Wolfpack lead to 10-7 with 4:41 left in the first quarter.
NC State gambled on the ensuing possession by snapping the ball to senior linebacker Robert Caldwell as the up man on a fake punt on fourth down and eight. Doeren said UNC had shown in previous games that they could be susceptible for a fake, but the Tar Heels stuffed Caldwell for a loss of one at the NCSU 30-yard line.
"I thought we had it and it didn't work, so that is on me," Doeren said. "They are a big hold-up team and turn their eyes to their guys, and we thought we could get around the edge. They did a nice job defending it, obviously. It was on tape and they gave us the look that I thought it would work against."
UNC used the momentum and Renner eventually plunged in from the one-yard line to take a 14-10 lead with 1:59 left in the first quarter.
Davis scored the lone second-quarter touchdown between the two teams when he caught a 59-yard score on a pass from freshman wide receiver Ryan Switzer. Renner threw a backward pass to Switzer, and the play fooled freshman cornerback Jack Tocho on the play.
UNC's offense wasn't that much better in the second half, but freshman running back T.J. Logan capped a nice drive with a 14-yard touchdown run for the final points of the game.
The midfield logo was part of the discussion going into the game. The Wolfpack liked the design and look of what East Carolina has done and installed their version for the North Carolina game. Doeren and the players were not happy about UNC's antics following the contest.
"I am going to remember what they did on the 50-yard line after the game for the next 364 days," Doeren said. "I'm going to look forward to playing them next year, and that's all I can do. We are going to keep recruiting and keep working as hard as we can as coaches and players and support staff to build this program."
NC State has other more pertinent issues to worry about this week, but the players said they'll revisit what they perceived as poor sportsmanship by some UNC players.
"It definitely crossed the line," said sophomore running back Shadrach Thornton, who rushed for 90 yards on 22 carries. "That just goes to show that is the reflection of their coaches. That is inexcusable. That is Terrell Owens in the middle of Cowboys Stadium doing his thing. That is definitely something we'll remember, but we lost."
NC State has been playing without key guys throughout the season, and Saturday was no different. Senior outside linebacker D.J. Green was ejected from the game for "targeting," and redshirt junior Bryan Underwood and freshman Johnathan Alston, both wide receivers, entered the game as "questionable." Doeren later clarified that Underwood (collarbone) and Alston (elbow) were done for the season in his postgame press conference.
"I think that rule [targeting] is a bad rule," Doeren said. "It's not evenly officiated and it is a judgment call. I understand the intent of the rule, but it is a bad rule change.
"I don't think it's fair on the officials and a rule that should be changed at the end of the season."
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