NC State saves season with 28-21 win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill

Dayes, Samuels lead Wolfpack to second straight road win over Tar Heels

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
N.C. State guard Garrett Bradbury (65) celebrates with fans following the Wolfpack's 28-21 win over North Carolina at Kenan Stadium Friday

CHAPEL HILL — Matt Dayes was an unstoppable force for the Wolfpack during his four years at NC State. On Friday, he ensured he wouldn’t go out with a losing record to UNC by posting a 140-yard, two touchdown performance in the Wolfpack’s 28-21 road win in Kenan Stadium.NC State also ensured Dayes, along with the rest of the seniors in the program, would be bowl eligible for a third straight season. After losing five of the previous six games leading up to the showdown in Chapel Hill, that was anything but a guarantee for the Pack before Friday.The win for NC State marked its second straight at Kenan and the fourth consecutive victory for the road team in the rivalry. The last time a home team won in the series was when the Pack decided to punt to Giovani Bernard. There were no such miscues for State on Black Friday.NC State got things going early in aggressive fashion, with a 59-yard passing touchdown from Jaylen Samuels to Stephen Louis. Samuels took a lateral from quarterback Ryan Finley before heaving it to a wide-open Louis to shock UNC with 9:57 remaining in the first quarter.On the first play of the ensuing drive, UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky fumbled the snap and Bradley Chubb pounced on it at the UNC 29-yard line. Dayes punched it in from one yard out to give the Pack an early 14-0 lead.Dayes’ second touchdown came on a bulldozing 18-yard rush on fourth down after breaking three tackles before touching pay dirt. “They came out and dominated, it was amazing,” Dayes said of the offensive line. “I don’t know if those guys expected us to just lay down for them or what it was, but the o-line dominated and we finished every run today.”That touchdown gave Dayes 40 for his career, making him the first NC State player to pass the threshold since Stan Fritts (42) in 1974. Another two-touchdown effort in a bowl game would tie Dayes with Fritts for second all-time in school history.The Heels finally got on the board for the first time with a four-yard pass from Trubisky to Ryan Switzer after a fumble by Nyheim Hines at the 33-yard line. That brought the score to 21-7 at the half following a missed field goal by NC State’s Connor Haskins from 26 yards out.NC State’s offense wasn’t the only thing on the field providing fireworks, however. Prior to Haskins’ botched field goal, the Pack and Heels cleared the benches and met at midfield for a tussle that saw UNC defensive tackle Jalen Dalton ejected. The fight came after a Matt Dayes fumble that was overturned and ruled an incomplete pass.The Pack kept the scoring going in the third quarter with a Jaylen Samuels rushing touchdown on a handoff from, you guessed it, Dayes. After Dayes led State down the field in the wildcat formation, the Pack held a three-touchdown advantage heading into the fourth quarter.Then UNC’s offense came alive.On the first drive of the fourth, Trubisky and Switzer connected on three straight passes for 70 yards before Thomas Jackson touchdown reception. The Heels followed that up with another five-play, 61-yard drive that concluded in a 48-yard reception for Bug Howard.With the momentum clearly swinging in UNC’s direction for the first time all game, NC State went three-and-out on the next drive. Luckily for the Pack, Howard dropped what would have been a first down on fourth-and-20 in NC State territory on the next drive.The Pack would close out the game with a Jalan McClendon 14-yard rush for a first down to ensure the win. Three plays later, NC State earned its sixth victory of the year and a crucial one for coach Dave Doeren, who closes out the year at 6-6 and two straight road wins.The win not only ensure bowl eligibility, but gives Doeren the all-important rivalry win over UNC. “To me, it’s not about that,” Doeren said. “It’s about these players and these coaches hanging together amidst a lot of heartbreaking days, negativity and doubt. We didn’t. … That’s what this is about. “This has nothing to do with the bowl game. I’m glad they get to go to a bowl game, but today was about mastering ourselves, finding a way to win and doing it against our rival.”While his team scuffled down the stretch, taking a win home from Chapel Hill heals a lot of wounds from losses against Boston College and fourth-quarter meltdowns against Clemson and Florida State.”It’s incredible,” a choked up Doeren said following the game. “Until you’ve been in the arena and fought and laid your life on the line the way these guys do and these coaches do amidst all the b.s. that’s out there, you have no idea what it feels like. “It’s tremendous to see the support that all these players have had for each and every one of us as coaches and for each other. Proud of them.”On the UNC side, it’s another in-state loss that denies the Heels any chance of a second consecutive ACC Championship Game appearance and starts the timer on Fedora’s future in Chapel Hill.Regardless of their upcoming destination, the Heels will play one last game with the core of Switzer, Howard and several other significant seniors that turned the program around under Fedora.