NC State fifth-year senior defensive end David Akinniyi has seen a lot of new things this season.
He transferred into NC State in January from the now-defunct Northeastern football program and received a taste of life at the BCS college football level. Now he is about to experience a major rivalry for the first time when NC State makes the short trek Saturday to play at North Carolina.
"I've heard it's a pretty intense rivalry, that people play as hard as they can go, and they don't like each other," Akinniyi said. "So it should be a pretty fun game."
Akinniyi is not a stranger to rivalries. While at Northeastern, he quickly found out that beating Massachusetts was a major priority.
"We always went hard that game whether we had a good season or not," Akinniyi recalled. "That game was always a competitive game. It always came down to the wire. We never came out with a victory, but they were always competitive, hard-fought games.
"A lot more fans showed up. People were always stressing throughout the week how important it was. Alumni would always come to us, tell us how badly they wanted to win. Other students told us how badly they wanted to win. It really was a big game."
Akinniyi has already noticed one big difference between the Northeastern-Umass rivalry and NC State-UNC. The Wolfpack fans seem to take this game a bit more seriously than their brethren at Northeastern.
"I've gotten it all year actually," Akinniyi said. "People say, 'I don't care if you win any game, just beat Carolina.' Stressing the fact that they don't like these guys."
Akinniyi fully anticipates a packed house of 60,000 at Kenan Stadium, but he also admits that he is just as much interested in getting a win to preserve State's ACC title game hopes as he is sticking it to the Heels.
"This is my first year being part of the rivalry, so more so I really want to try to continue and win the ACC championship," Akinniyi said. "They've ran the ball fairly well on film, and they are good with play action plays. They have some receivers that you can beat you deep. We are really going to need to defend pretty well."
Akinniyi has started all 10 games at defensive end this year for the Pack, and he has 19 tackles, including four for losses and 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. He is also tied for second on the squad with 10 quarterback hurries.