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November 5, 2011

Five in a row



NC State was able to get the last and most important word in its rivalry with UNC on Saturday — victory.

The Wolfpack's defense came through with a 13-0 victory over the Tar Heels at Carter-Finley Stadium.

The victory was well earned by the maligned NC State defense, which allowed 34 points last week against Florida State. NCSU improved to 5-4 overall and 2-3 in the ACC, and are two victories away from becoming bowl eligible. UNC fell to 6-4 overall and 2-4 in the league.

"I'd certainly like to commend this football team and coaching staff," O'Brien said. "You look at the effort by the defense, it was tremendous today. We put together a great game plan after studying all the tape and getting ready to play this game. We did enough offensively to win this type of football game."

O'Brien joked that the players will get an extra hour to celebrate tonight as their "big bonus," but he's ready to move on to prepare for winning at Boston College next week.

"I'm really happy for the kids and really happy for the staff," O'Brien said. "I remember my first year here, we beat Carolina, and they thought the season was over. We still have a lot to play for."

NC State has won five straight games against UNC, which the seniors were extremely proud of.

UNC rushed for just three yards on 28 carries and allowed four sacks for minus-48 yards. NC State got its first shutout since 2004.

North Carolina played most of the second half with backup quarterback Braden Hanson under center. Starter Bryn Renner departed the game with concussion-like symptoms.

"We played well against the run and we were able to get a lot of pressure on the quarterback," O'Brien said. "We got more hits probably on the quarterback today than we have all year."

The two teams had some give and take throughout the week, including the head coaches. NC State fifth-year senior middle linebacker Audie Cole was proud the Wolfpack could stand up for their school.

"We talked about it and I guess we are the farmers, and they are the educated people, whatever," Cole said. "Either way, we won and the farmers will be happy going to work on Monday. I'm glad to go undefeated on them."

North Carolina's defense came up with the first big play.

NC State had the first turnover of the game when redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon took a third down shot down the field to fifth-year senior wide receiver Jay Smith. UNC cornerback Charles Brown had perfect position and picked it off at the Tar Heels 39-yard line, just 18 seconds into the contest.

NC State's defense came through, sparked by a big sack by Cole to help force a punt. UNC lost 19 yards on the play, which altered field position.

Glennon rebounded from his interception and threw a nice 25-yard pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Tobais Palmer to the UNC 24-yard line. Glennon then hit senior wide receiver T.J. Graham down the middle for a 12-yard touchdown with 8:23 left in the first quarter. Graham did a good job of holding on to the ball in the back of the end zone.

"It was a pretty good defensive play in the sense that they tried to stop it, but it was open," Graham said. "This means a lot. I'm from Raleigh and I've lived in North Carolina all my life."

The Wolfpack had an opportunity to tack on three points, but freshman kicker Niklas Sade's attempt from 48 yards went wide right with a little over three minutes left in the first.

Renner tried to go downfield near the end of the first quarter, but redshirt junior strong safety Earl Wolff was there to pick it off for his first interception of the season at the NC State 36-yard line with 16 seconds left in the quarter.

Sade was able to redeem himself with a 26-yard field goal to give NC State a 10-0 lead with 5:48 left in the second quarter.

NC State used a pair of plays to help open a 13-0 lead in the third quarter.

Renner threw into double coverage in the end zone to H-back Christian Wilson, allowing NCSU sophomore cornerback David Amerson to get his ninth interception of the season to set a single season record for NC State.

"We just had a little bit more bounce in our step," Amerson said. "Everyone was flying around out there. It was fun out there."

Palmer then showcased his big-play speed with a 54-yard reception down to the UNC 14-yard line. The Wolfpack's drive stalled and Sade hit a 24-yard field goal with 7:29 left in the third quarter.

NC State had momentum and could rely on its defense.

"David has been making big plays all year, and Tobais showed his speed off by taking a five-yard out and taking it 50-something yards," said Glennon, who finished 16 of 33 for 164 yards, one touchdown and one interception. "That definitely got our offense going in the second half."

Hansen and the Tar Heels went for it on fourth down and four, and NC State redshirt junior outside linebacker Terrell Manning knocked the pass away, giving the Wolfpack the ball at their own 23 with 7:48 left in the game.

NC State's defense came through with one more big play to help put the game away. Fifth-year senior defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy got to Hansen quickly, who threw the ball up for grabs. NCSU redshirt sophomore defensive end Darryl Cato-Bishop was able to deflect the pass and then pull it in for the interception at the UNC 40-yard line with 3:36 left in the game.

Manning has consistently said if the Wolfpack defense has all its guys, it is a good team.

"This was real big for the seniors," Manning said. "Those guys never lost. I hope one day that I can say the same."

NC State lost starting left tackle R.J. Mattes in the first quarter because of an ankle injury. Fifth-year right tackle Mikel Overgaard moved to the left side, and sophomore Robert Crisp moved into the lineup.

The offensive line helped pave the way for 126 rushing yards on 41 carries, and allowed two sacks. Junior running back James Washington rushed for 110 yards on 27 carries for the Wolfpack in his third 100-yard effort of the season.

"We had to run the football to be successful, and I think that helps out our quarterback a lot," O'Brien said.

Some of the NC State fans starting chanting, "Flagship, Flagship," toward the end of the game in response to comments from UNC interim coach Everett Withers earlier this week.

Withers made sure to not ruffle any feathers following the game in defeat.

"It bothers me awful lot to lose any game," Withers said. "I think in this state, this is a big game in this state. This is supposed to be a rivalry and it is supposed to eat at you.

"I felt like we tried to play harder. I don't think it had to do anything with intensity, emotions. It was about Xs and Os and not blocking them and not tackling them."


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