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Ken Medlin

A rivalry restored?

Posted October 29, 2012
Updated October 30, 2012

Tom O'Brien has never been afraid to call things as he sees them.

O'Brien sent a few shock waves through the social media universe when he said this year's State-Carolina match-up felt like a rivalry game for the first time since he took over in Raleigh.

I think he's on to something.

For years now, I've been saying the team that "wants it more" wins a disproportionate number of games in this series - regardless of talent, or who's favored. North Carolina at N.C. State Inside the Rivalry: NCSU vs. UNC Football

This is as unscientific as it gets, so bear with me. But there certainly seems to be a correlation between "embracing the rivalry" and winning in this series.

John Bunting's Carolina teams suffered some of the worst losses in the program's history, but Bunting still went 4-2 against NC State. Why? The game was an absolute priority for them, while the "biggest game of the year" for Chuck Amato's squads was often perceived to be Florida State - against whom the Pack fared much better (4-2) in the same time span.

That trend reversed when O'Brien and Butch Davis took over the two programs. O'Brien embraced the rivalry immediately, while many perceived the focus at Carolina was on beating teams like Miami and Virginia Tech. The result? Five straight wins for a State team that wasn't always favored, while the Tar Heels went 4-4 against the Hokies and 'Canes under Davis. UNC gets late dramatics to top NC State, 43-35 UNC gets late dramatics to top NC State, 43-35

In both cases - State under Amato, and Carolina under Davis - the programs appeared poised to break into the national spotlight. But in both cases, the rivalry game (and a perceived lack of emphasis on it) proved to be a major sticking point.

Hey, I'm not saying Amato and Davis didn't care about this game - far from it. But the old saying "throw out the records when these teams meet" seems to apply to this series, and the team that appears more focused on the rivalry has won a lot over the last decade - even when those teams were decided underdogs.

From day one, Larry Fedora made the N.C. State game a priority - often quoting the number of days in a Red Bull-infused countdown. The result? A passionate, wild, shootout-of-a game that literally came down to the last play.

I think that's what O'Brien was talking about: Both sides of the rivalry making this game a priority.

And we, as spectators, are the beneficiaries.

30 Comments

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  • Hokies94 Oct 30, 9:43 p.m.

    I got the game day pics emailed to me (I subscribe to the N&O), and what stood out to me was... View More

    — Posted by GunnyGoesArrrgh

    I have been to State and UNC games numerous times over the years. Only a few lately. I still have the opportunity to get tickets from donors/clubs from both schools. Heck. I've even sold a few that I didn't attend. I've never seen any food fights. If this is the case it was probably a small group of friends; I hope.

  • Alex25 Oct 30, 5:46 p.m.

    What was Highsmith doing playing??? He is confirmed as copying the work of an 11 yo!!

  • GunnyGoesArrrgh Oct 30, 2:22 p.m.

    I got the game day pics emailed to me (I subscribe to the N&O), and what stood out to me was the number of tailgates that had both State and Carolina fans partying in the same group. I've never seen that before, and I found it refreshing to see. The tailgating pics were taken before the game, but I have no reason to believe the pre-game partiers would be having food fights after the game. If we can't go to each others venues without feeling comfortable, well, that's just sad.

  • GunnyGoesArrrgh Oct 30, 2:14 p.m.

    I'm just a fan, but the State game has always been the college version of the Super Bowl to me,... View More

    — Posted by GunnyGoesArrrgh

    I wouldn't say UNC "didn't get up" for some previous matchups. If you go back and... View More

    — Posted by rduguyhere

    Very true about the close games - 4 of the 6 did come down to the final play. The guys did seem more pumped up this year, probably due to things like wanting the win for the seniors who had never beaten State, for the new coaching staff, and because they were sick of hearing 5-0. Whatever the reason, I'll take it all day, every day! I also think Fedora did try to emphasize this game by doing things like surprising them with the new helmets and putting the State merchandise in the locker room. I think it's great.

  • wolfbearrtp2 Oct 30, 2:03 p.m.

    I think the fear of unwanted contact with assorted bodily fluids while in Carter Finley keeps... View More

    — Posted by SilentSam

    And also the verbal and physical intimidation by the Pack fans at Carter Stadium and parking... View More

    — Posted by rduguyhere

    the last time I was at ple Hill, I got called names while walking towards the stadium. Some of the names invovled profanity. So, lets not pretend that the EweNC fan base is holier than thou. WE all know that isn't true. Look at the mess your Athletic Department is in with the NCAA. You guys will never learn. You speak the holier than thou but underneath it all you are as crooked and as bad a fanbase as any other school.

  • heelsforever Oct 30, 1:22 p.m.

    I think the fear of unwanted contact with assorted bodily fluids while in Carter Finley keeps... View More

    — Posted by SilentSam

    And also the verbal and physical intimidation by the Pack fans at Carter Stadium and parking... View More

    — Posted by rduguyhere

    I don't know about the physical, but I do see a lot of verbal intimidation from state fans at... View More

    — Posted by senor wuf

    On two different occassions State fans made physical contact with me in CFS when I was minding my own business. I'm not talking about a simple bumped into me either. Thankfully both times I had the soberness and restraint to not escalate the situation. To make it worse I was with friends who are State fans when theses incidents happened. I decided after the second episode that I wouldn't be returning to CFS. Just not worth the potential bad sitiation.

  • heelsforever Oct 30, 1:16 p.m.

    I'm just a fan, but the State game has always been the college version of the Super Bowl to me,... View More

    — Posted by GunnyGoesArrrgh

    I wouldn't say UNC "didn't get up" for some previous matchups. If you go back and... View More

    — Posted by rduguyhere

    State won't even up the overall record in my lifetime and I plan to live at least another 40 years. SInce the ACC began the series is pretty much even and I expect it will genrally stay that way, so evening it up may never happen. I honestly don't think we should be shouting about the record before the ACC started anyway.

  • tarheelgrad1998 Oct 30, 12:26 p.m.

    What a junk article. All of the games except for the 41-10 blowout during the streak were close, including some decided at the end. Those were a result of Butch Davis not caring? And a virtual coin flip game decided by a return was the result of Fedora now caring?

    Reaching for articles, are we?

  • wjuliang Oct 30, 10:19 a.m.

    I think the fear of unwanted contact with assorted bodily fluids while in Carter Finley keeps... View More

    — Posted by SilentSam

    And also the verbal and physical intimidation by the Pack fans at Carter Stadium and parking... View More

    — Posted by rduguyhere

    I don't know about the physical, but I do see a lot of verbal intimidation from state fans at... View More

    — Posted by senor wuf

    I'm like the person above. I went to one UNC game at State and will never go again. Obviously there is going to be some good rubbing to visitors but that parking lot and drunk fans was unbelievable. Some guy even ran into my car after the game, on purpose. And the Pack won that game!

  • carolinaprideamplified Oct 30, 10:17 a.m.

    TOB is definitely out of touch on this one or he is just trying to downplay the loss. It's always been a rivalry. If it weren't for his teams winning the "rivalry" game in his first few years he would be have been on the hot seat for sure with the sub par .500 seasons they were having. 5-7,6-7,5-7 with 1 bowl appearance loss to Rutgers but wins over UNC each year. I grew up in NC hearing about the rivalries. Not just NCState but also Wake and Duke..shoot even with ECU as those guys wanna beat one the "big brothers" terribly. So don't tell us.. the fans who have been here over 40 years that it finally felt like a rivalry..IT HAS always felt like one regardless of who wins and always will be. It was way before he rolled into Raleigh and it and will be long after he is gone.

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