Rivalry recap: Bottom Three State Losses
Let's just get the bad stuff out of the way while we're all still salty from the weekend disappointment, shall we? This week on the site, we wanted to rank the top three and bottom three games against NC State from the last quarter-century. Originally, I was going to do the top three first. But, given the last 72 hours, let's just go ahead and deal with the misery first. After all, life is fleeting and you just never know when you could be blindsided by an onrushing defensive lineman and then be forced to miss an ENTIRE ONE PLAY of the game you are playing in. Things happen fast, you know. We can all just be thankful that everyone from Duke will be able to play this week, unlike, say, Tim Jackson, who must've been hit by a meteor shower and had to sit out the rest of the Duke game and could also be out this week against NC State.
Where were we? Oh, right. The worst three losses to NC State. Now, let me admit up front that I did not see the 2008 or 2010 games in person due to basketball travel. In 2008, we were in Maui. It was SLIGHTLY better than sitting in Kenan Stadium watching State win 41-10. In 2010, we were in Puerto Rico, and while we had a great crew to watch the game with, I would rather buy a vacation home in Afghanistan than go back to Puerto Rico ever again. So that takes two of the most painful State losses of the past 25 years off the table. Unfortunately, there were others to choose from. I only considered the games in this series that I have seen in person, which means all of them since 1986 except for the above two. The alternate title for this story was "Three days when I didn't talk to anyone for hours after the game was over."
3. Nov. 10, 2007: NC State 31, Carolina 27. In the first year of the Butch Davis regime, one of the main things Carolina football fans were clinging to was recent dominance over State, which included a 4-2 record in the John Bunting era, when winning records against specific opponents were rare enough to be cherished. But State started fast, racing to a 17-0 lead in the first 18 minutes of the game. The Tar Heels came back with some unusual scores, including a 92-yard interception return for a touchdown by Charles Brown, a 50-yard fullback pass from Bobby Rome to Brandon Tate, and a 76-yard interception return for a touchdown by Kendric Burney. That last score gave Carolina a 27-24 lead with under 10 minutes to play--but there was too much time on the clock. State scored with 1:41 remaining to take a 31-27 lead, and a last-ditch UNC drive fell short. The Tar Heels had four plays from the State 7-yard-line with 21 seconds remaining, and the Wolfpack walked off with the win.
Brown's return is at 1:49, Rome's toss at 2:35, Burney's return at 2:55, and all the end-game fireworks at 4:10, with the fateful four goal-line plays at 6:22.
2. Oct. 18, 1986: NC State 35, Carolina 34. In a rare battle of unbeatens in this series, State held on to claim the win at Kenan Stadium. The Pack had taken the lead on a 37-yard touchdown pass to Naz Worthen on which Tar Heel defenders Walter Bailey and Skeet Baldwin (Note: this was the era when Carolina had players named Skeet and Fuzzy, which made it a lot more fun to replay the games in the yard afterward) collided, allowing Worthen to saunter into the end zone with 1:01 left, capping a State drive that began on their own two-yard-line.
Now trailing 35-28, Carolina quarterback Mark Maye--my mother's all-time favorite UNC football player--completed five straight passes to put the Tar Heels in the end zone with eight seconds left. Now trailing 35-34, head coach Dick Crum had a decision to make. He could kick the extra point and take his team's second tie of the season (the Tar Heels had tied Florida State, 10-10, four weeks earlier). Or he could go for the win and an eighth straight victory over the Wolfpack. Say what you want about Crum, but he knew how to beat State. And he thought he had the perfect two-point play for the situation, with Maye rolling right and then throwing back across the field to tight end Dave Truitt near the end zone. But the pass didn't quite have enough zip on it, and Truitt, who was all alone, had to crouch down to catch it. He immediately hopped up and ran into the end zone for an apparent two-point conversion, but officials correctly ruled that he was down. The loss gave State its first win over UNC since 1978. The two-point play is at the 1:34 mark:
By the way, that video reminded me that Carolina cheerleaders used to wear tuxedo-esque uniforms for the really big games, such as the opening game at the Smith Center (about nine months before this game) or big rivalry games. That's a part of the 1980s that probably needs to stay in the dustbin with my power mullet.
1. Sept. 29, 1990: NC State 12, Carolina 9. Factor in that in the previous two years--both of which were 1-10 campaigns for the Tar Heels--State had beaten Carolina by a combined score of 88-9. That is not an exaggerated score that was made up to prove a point. State won 48-3 in 1988 and 40-6 in 1989. Beating the Wolfpack was a priority in 1990, when it felt like Mack Brown was starting to turn the corner with the program. The game was at Kenan Stadium, and it felt like the Tar Heels caught a break--already trailing 9-6-- when State kicker Damon Hartman missed a field goal late in the fourth quarter. That enabled the Tar Heel offense to chug down the field and tie the score on a 21-yard field goal. There was less than a minute remaining. This was a tie, but it was going to feel like an incredible victory for the Tar Heels. Remember, this was the pre-overtime era, and games could end in ties--which this one surely would.
But it didn't. Aided by a pass interference penalty, State quarterback Charles Davenport drove his team across midfield, and eventually reached the Carolina 39-yard-line with one second left. What came next was one of the most deflating moments in the history of Kenan Stadium: State kicker Damon Hartman booted a 56-yard field goal as time elapsed. It was the longest field goal in Wolfpack history. It prolonged a UNC losing streak to the team from Raleigh that would eventually stretch to five straight games before being mercifully ended in 1993.
I'm surprised video of this exists, considering I thought witchcraft was usually invisible on film. I vividly remember sitting in Kenan and watching the State players storm the field.