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NC State, Wake Forest have played every year since 1910

While it’s somewhat fashionable to enter the Wake Forest football game with the pessimism of a blind date on prom night, there was a time, long ago, that a game against the Baptists was a sure thing.

NC State – or the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (A&M), as it was then known – didn’t taste defeat against its northern nearby neighbor until the flu-plagued season of 1918.

The teams first met in 1895, the only season A&M played with brown and white as the school colors. It was a minor improvement on the pink-and-blue combination of the first three teams, but hardly had the success of the red-and-white colors the student body chose for 1896.

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A picture of NC State's Riddick Stadium around 1910, the year that began a continuous annual game against Wake Forest.
A picture of NC State's Riddick Stadium around 1910, the year that began a continuous annual game against Wake Forest. (NC State)

The first game against Wake ended in a 4-4 tie, an outcome that so bothered the Baptist-affiliated school then located in the northern part of Wake County that it banned football as an intercollegiate activity.

Actually, both Wake and Duke (then called Trinity) dropped the rough-and-tumble sport for religious purposes.

Both NC State and North Carolina also dropped the sport in the final decade of the 19th century. For Carolina, which stopped playing the sport in February of 1890, the ban was because of the roughness of the sport.

For State, which only received $100 a year from the school to fund its two athletics programs, football was discontinued for both fiscal and physical reasons.

Carolina’s ban ended shortly after it began when a group of players — one of whom, Perrin Busbee, was the head coach of NC State’s first team in 1892 — petitioned the faculty to reinstate the game on campus under better supervision.

State’s ban didn’t last long because of a technicality. Only 13 members of the Board of Trustees were on hand in November 1895 when it voted to cease playing the sport, 7-6. The team played one game against Guilford in 1896, then returned to a three-game schedule in 1897 after a revote in the spring of 1897 that included all 15 trustees.

Wake didn’t play again until 1908, opening its return season with a 25-0 loss to State. Later that season, State won 76-0, which still stands as the most lopsided win in the history of the series for either team.

With two wins over Wake, NC State had one of the most successful seasons in school history, finishing with a 6-1 record after outscoring its opponents 153-11. One hundred and one of those points were against the Baptists.

State and Wake skipped playing each other in 1909, but have played at least once every season since 1910, making it the third longest continuously played series in college football.

After the inaugural tie and Wake’s long layoff, State reeled off 10 straight wins in the series, which is the most in a row by either team. Coaches Michie Whitehurst, Eddie Green, Jack Hegarty and Britt Patterson were all undefeated against Wake, while Harry Hartsell posted a 3-1 record in two separate stints as head coach.

State could have had 15 in a row had it not been for the 21-0 loss to Wake in 1918, which came on the heels of NC State’s military campus being decimated by both World War I call-ups and the Spanish Flu pandemic that took the lives of 33 students, faculty and staff. (After shutting down extracurricular activities for five weeks, including all athletics, State lost its final three games by a combined score of 174-0.)

State won the next four in a row and nine out of 11 against the Demon Deacons through the 1922 season.

In all, the 10-0-1 record in those first 11 games marks the longest winning streak for either team in a rivalry that includes 112 games, and counting. The Pack now leads the overall series 66-40-6.

Tim Peeler is a regular contributor to The Wolfpacker and can be reached at tmpeeler@ncsu.edu.

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