RALEIGH — At halftime Saturday night, North Carolina found its bowl hopes in danger, as NC State led 10-6 and showed no signs of going away.
The Pack aren’t going to a bowl this year, so the chance to keep the Tar Heels home for the holidays would have to serve instead.
It was time for some halftime adjustments, and the Heels did exactly that, unpacking the whipping stick and loosening up their shoulders.
The Tar Heels buried the Wolfpack under a third-quarter avalanche, forcing three turnovers and scoring 28 points on their way to a 41-10 blowout of State.
The win snapped a three-year losing streak to the Wolfpack and got the Tar Heels their sixth win, earning them bowl eligibility.
“I think we tried too hard in the first half,” Mack Brown. “I think the biggest difference was turnovers. We forced turnovers with our defense, which we haven’t done a lot during the season, and then we turned them into points, and that got the game out of reach pretty quickly.”
Now the Tar Heels will wait to see where they’ll be headed in the postseason. When Brown took the job almost a year ago, he promised the seniors they’d try to be competitive immediately, instead of cleaning house. He was able to deliver them a bowl bid.
“It’s really rewarding for me and the coaches because those seniors are so happy,” Brown said. “Good for them. They’ve hung in there for us. We’ve had some really tough losses where they could have lay down and quit.”
On the other side, NC State completes a 4-8 season, 1-7 in the ACC. The team battled injuries all season and shuffled quarterbacks looking for a spark for the offense. Now the team faces an uncertain offseason.
“First thing I need to do is get out of here and watch the film, and then come in here and watch a lot of film,” Dave Doeren said, indicating he wants to evaluate everything instead of making an “emotional decision” about possible changes.
“I’ve been through a lot this year with these guys. I think our guys have hung in there through 14 weeks of different lineups, a lot of guys playing that we didn’t expect to be playing with,” he said. “I think a lot of valuable reps went on out there. It was a strange year.”