It wasn't pretty. In fact it was everything you expect out of a game between two teams that came into the contest with a combined five wins. In the end the much maligned Tar Heel defense overcame a rough start to hold the Wolfpack to a touchdown and four field goals on the way to a 27-19 win. It is the second straight win in the series for the Tar Heels and the first in Raleigh since 2005.
The game did not start well at all for UNC with Bryn Renner throwing an ill-advised pass on the second play of the game that was intercepted giving the Wolfpack prime field position at the UNC 24 yard line. NC State wasted little time with QB Brandon Mitchell running roughshod over the Tar Heel defense to put the Wolfpack up 7-0. The second possession wasn't any better with Eric Ebron fumbling the ball for a 16-yard loss. Following a Tommy Hibbard punt, NC State managed a field goal and a 10-0 lead just minutes into the game.
Then Marquise Williams came into the game.
There was already a raging debate about whether Marquise Williams should be seeing more snaps than Bryn Renner. This game probably won't do much to quell those flames. Williams' led the Heels on a crisp 74 yard drive that took a little over two minutes. Williams hit Quinshad Davis for a 2-yard touchdown pass. After forcing a fourth down on the subsequent NC State possession, the Wolfpack attempted a fake punt which the Heels snuffed out to stake excellent field position. With Renner back in the game, UNC quickly marched for a second touchdown with the fifth year senior quarterback finding the end zone on a sneak from one yard line.
NC State would get two more field goals to take a 16-14 lead. UNC answered with Renner tossing to Ryan Switzer behind the line of scrimmage and Switzer finding a wide open Davis streaking for a 59-yard touchdown. That play, which started with Switzer in motion from left to right was actually set up by a play on a previous drive. Switzer had motioned in a similar manner before and caught a swing pass for a gain of only a few yards. His motion on the touchdown play was the same and when he caught the pass from Renner, the NC State defensive backs bit hard opening up Davis for the touchdown.
At this point the game really bogged down. Neither team scored from 9:43 mark of the 2nd quarter until the 4:50 mark in the third when NC State's Niklas Sade hit is fourth and final field goal of the day to make it 21-19. UNC's offense, which had multiple opportunities to seize control of the game was unable to do so. Both Williams and Renner were banged up at different points. A string of holding penalties derailed UNC drives time and again. Yet, while the offense was unable to plunge the dagger in despite having a variety of chances, the defense came up big. Outside of the Sade field goal, the Tar Heel defense kept the Wolfpack in check which included a pair of interceptions.
After multiple stalled drives, the Heels finally got a much needed touchdown, with T.J. Logan doing most of the heavy lifting. Logan ran for 29 of UNC's 67 yards on the drive and scored his first career touchdown on a 14-yard run up the middle. However a missed PAT by Thomas Moore(who also missed a FG previously) left the Heels with only an eight point lead. Fortunately the defense was up to the challenge and stopped a NC State drive on fourth down at midfield to essentially lock the game away.
Again, this wasn't a beautiful game by any stretch but a win against a rival is still a win. The defense, which two weeks ago failed to stop Miami late in the game, did so every time it was asked in the late stages of this one. That is two straight weeks where the Tar Heels have played solid defense. Winning the turnover margin was crucial to the defense's success and the secondary coverage was good most of the day. The offense is still struggling a bit and that is rooted in the offensive line which seemingly can't even open a decent hole without being flagged for holding.There probably isn't much that can be done about that at this stage.
UNC moves to 3-5 overall and needs to win three of the next four to become bowl eligible. Two of those games come at home against Virginia, Old Dominion and Duke. The fourth is at Pittsburgh. Wins against ODU and Virginia are doable which would leave UNC needs one win over either Duke or Pitt. If the defense can keep improving, it might just happen.
For today, the question of whose state this is, has been answered.