The moment of truth arrives for NC State and Dave Doeren -

The moment of truth arrives for NC State and Dave Doeren

by Matt Zemek

Posted: 9/30/2022 5:47:06 AM

This is it.

This is the moment North Carolina State fans have waited for.

College GameDay. The primetime treatment. The national centerpiece game. Unbeaten Clemson is standing in the way. On the road. Wake Forest has lost. Miami and the rest of the ACC Coastal are a mess.

If North Carolina State wins this game, what will happen? We don’t know how the results will actually unfold throughout October and November, but we do know that everything will become possible for this program.

If North Carolina State can go into Death Valley, at night, and tame the Tigers, the Wolfpack will be favored to win the ACC championship for the first time since 1979. State will be favored to make a New Year’s Six bowl for the first time ever. North Carolina State will be expected to win double-digit regular-season games, very possibly 11. State would be ranked in the top six, if not the top five. You name it, State will have a great chance to get it … IF it can beat Clemson.

We remember Kyle Bambard failing to make that short field goal several years ago in Death Valley. The Pack could have upset Clemson in 2016, knocking Deshaun Watson out of the College Football Playoff. Imagine how different the next six years would have been both in Raleigh and in the Palmetto State. That game has haunted State fans. Even though the Pack beat Clemson last year, that win didn’t become an iconic memory which wiped away the bitter taste of 2016, because State didn’t back it up with an ACC Atlantic Division title or a New Year’s Six bowl.

North Carolina State isn’t expected to win this game, but it certainly has a chance. The Wolfpack have a defense which is far better and more physical than Wake Forest’s defense, which was toothless against Clemson’s improved offensive line. The focus will naturally gravitate to quarterback Devin Leary and the State offense. To be sure, that group must be able to handle the cauldron of pressure attached to this road game on Saturday night. State has to execute on offense at a level far higher than what it showed in Greenville against East Carolina in Week 1. That is certainly a part of the puzzle for the Pack. Yet, the straightest path to victory for Dave Doeren does not go through his offense; it’s through his defense. This is the game for the N.C. State linebackers and front seven to make D.J. Uiagalelei’s life miserable. This is the moment for a heralded defense to make a statement against a Clemson offense which certainly appears to have improved from 2021, but which also faced a Wake Forest team it manhandled last year. State is unlikely to win 38-31. It is much more likely to win 20-13. The Doeren defense has to be the difference in this moment of truth for a football program.

Yes, State could lose this game and still go 11-1 and reach a lot of its goals, but if this team falls achingly, agonizingly short of its dreams against Clemson, history tells us another loss — marked by a slight loss of confidence and a slight flinch under pressure — is probably just around the corner.

This is the big chance for North Carolina State football to drive a dagger through all its accumulated demons over several decades of comparative frustration and college football futility. Few programs have played more football with more empty seasons — no New Year’s Six bowls, minimal conference titles, minimal top-shelf achievements — than N.C. State.

Here is a chance to put all of that to an end, like the 2016 Chicago Cubs or the 1994 New York Rangers or the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the moment, North Carolina State. Just exactly how will you respond to it? The nation will be watching.

Author @MattZemekEditor at @TrojansWire .

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