by Mike Potter
The last football game in North Carolina in 2011 will be played Tuesday night, and N.C. State will be looking to put an exclamation point at the end of a solid second half.
ESPN will show it live at 8 p.m., and it will be the only football on TV at the time.
“At a point in the season — us after five games (2-3) and them after six (2-4) — nobody would have expected the two of us would be here,” Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien said. “It’s probably going to be one of those games that will go down to the last play, and the bowl people will love it.”
It’s supposed to be a close one, as the Wolfpack will be a 1 ½-point favorite in front of a partisan crowd that will probably top 60,000.
“The records really don’t reflect the kind of teams both are,” Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. “We were 2-4 and won five out of six. They were able to come back in the Maryland game and beat Clemson and North Carolina. And you’re looking at two teams that are evenly matched.”
State looked dead in the water at 4-4 following a 34-0 loss at Florida State on Oct. 29. But the Wolfpack had some Carter-Finley Stadium magic left.
State took its fifth straight victory over UNC, 13-0, the next week, but then seemed to have let the whole season go down the drain with a 14-10 loss at struggling Boston College on Nov. 12.
And what happened after that was legendary. The Wolfpack utterly demolished No. 7 Clemson 37-13, then seemed to have blown it all once again when it trailed lowly Maryland 41-14 in the third period before recovering for the final 42 points in the 56-41 victory for obligatory win No. 7 (State beat two FCS member opponents in Liberty and South Alabama).
The wins were directed by first-year starting quarterback and junior Mike Glennon, who took over for Russell Wilson — who had departed to lead Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl — and struggled a bit early before finding his stride.
“I’ve adjusted to the speed of the game,” Glennon said. “I know what to do in different situations now. … And in November our seniors did a good job getting it across that if we didn’t win their career at N.C. State was over.”
Louisville will counter with freshman All-American Teddy Bridgewater, the elusive All-Big East quarterback.
State leads the nation in interceptions with 24, paced by national leader and Jack Tatum Award winner David Amerson with 11.
Louisville’s defense, led by middle linebacker Dexter Heyman, leads the nation in tackles for loss with 87.