NC State football: It wasn't the dream season, but beating UNC would mean just as much
Coming into the season – led by ACC Preseason Player of the Year Devin Leary and a stable of returning veterans – the NC State football team had its sights set on a dream goal.
The Pack had legitimate hopes of winning its first ACC title since 1979, had not too far-fetched dreams of the College Football Playoff and certainly felt like it could put together the first 10-win season for the program since the days of Philip Rivers.
But that, of course, is not how the story went.
NC State struggled out of the gate and barely escaped a Week 1 disaster against East Carolina, but even despite winning early the offense never looked right. The Pack went to then-No. 5 Clemson and lost handily, and then it saw the issues compound the next week as Leary went out for the year with a pectoral injury.
A pair of quarterbacks and losses to then-No. 18 Syracuse and, stunningly, Boston College later, and the Wolfpack’s hope of that dream season has completely left Raleigh.
Down the road in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is putting together the season NC State so desperately dreamed of. The Tar Heels are 9-2, ranked No. 13 in the College Football Playoff rankings and they know they are headed to Charlotte the 1st weekend in December for the ACC title game.
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye is looking like the runaway ACC Player of the Year and even a Heisman contender, as the legacy star who won the “competition” in training camp has exceeded anybody’s wildest expectations.
So far in 2022, everything that hasn’t gone NC State’s way has seemingly gone the way of the Tar Heels.
But Friday afternoon at Kenan Stadium, the Wolfpack will have the opportunity to finish out the regular season as spoiler to the Heels, a win that would mean just the same despite the overall disappointments of the year as a whole.
Last year, Carolina traveled to Carter-Finley Stadium and thought it had done just that, as a late double-digit lead for the Tar Heels had 6-5 Carolina looking like it was going to finish the regular season by playing spoiler for the 8-3 Wolfpack.
NC State mounted a massive late comeback, though, and now a year later the Pack will hit the road hoping to do what Carolina so nearly did to it a year ago. The Tar Heels have their eyes on a New Year’s Six bowl. The Wolfpack wants to take down the Heels and show that despite the season it had, the state isn’t entirely UNC’s.
And for the Wolfpack’s massive outgoing class, it will be a chance to finish with a victory over the team it wants to beat the absolute most. NC State had more than 30 guys walk for Senior Day, and while some will be back, most will not.
For the likes of Isaiah Moore, Tanner Ingle, Bryson Speas and many more, a win against Carolina after the seasons the schools just had would mean the world to them on their way out of college football.