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Series History: WVU vs North Carolina State

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Though there have only been ten games played between the two, WVU and North Carolina State have a history of playing one another that goes back over one hundred years and has seen very few close games in that time frame. With the series tied a five games apiece, the winner of Saturday’s game will hold long-term bragging rights as this home-and-home series does not appear to be getting renewed in the coming years. History does not always serve as a predictor of what is to come, but it can certainly be used as a tool to see hw these two teams have competed in over one hundred years of rivalry.

The first time that the WVU football team traveled to play the university down in Raleigh, NC was a hundred and five years ago in 1914. However, this game took place four years before the school would become known as North Carolina State and seven before the adoption of the Wolfpack nickname. Therefore this game was contested between the West Virginia University Mountaineers and the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts Aggies. Under first year head coach Sol Metzger, WVU went 5-4 with wins over traditional rival Marshall and four opponents no longer compete in Division I-A: Bethany, Duquesne, Davis & Elkins, and Marietta. One of those four losses came on the road in Raleigh as the team, captained by Orrin H. Davis fell 26-13.

After three years, the future NC State made the return trip to Morgantown for the final game of the 1917 season. With former WVU tackle and assistant coach Mont McIntire in his second season as the head man on the sidelines, the Mountaineers exacted a measure of revenge with a 21-0 shutout win over the Aggies at the original Mountaineer Field. While the stadium that closed in 1979 eventually came to be known as Old Mountaineer Field, it was not the first facility on campus to be called that. Located above the current location of the Mountainlair and below where the century-old Stalker Hall was built a year later. Nicknamed “Splinter Stadium”, it housed the football team until 1924 when Old Mountaineer Field was built along Campus Drive.

The two teams would not play again until 1953, after NC State had been established as the name of the university and the Wolfpack was well-known as their mascot. This season was the perfect storm for a blowout as WVU coach Art “Pappy” Lewis had led the Mountaineers to a 7-1 record going into the game in Raleigh with a number nineteen ranking in the AP Poll. Meanwhile, NC State was in the inaugural season of the Atlantic Coast Conference and were 1-7 as they prepared to face off with the juggernaut Mountaineers. Lewis’ team marched into Raleigh and trounced their hosts 61-0, finishing with an 8-1 record and picking up an invite to the Sugar Bowl. After this embarrassment, the Wolfpack lost again at Florida State to finish 1-9 and second-year coach Horace Hendrickson resigned after the season.

The Wolfpack made a return trip the following season in 1954 were they looked to avenge their devastating loss by knocking off a highly-ranked WVU team on their own field. This would have been a serious upset as NC State entered the game at 2-6 under new head coach Earle Edwards while Lewis had the Mountaineers at 7-1 and on their way to their second of four consecutive Southern conference championships. With future NFL Draft pick Fred Wyant under center, WVU picked up their second win in a row over the Pack with a 28-3 victory at Old Mountaineer Field in front of 20,000 screaming fans.

The three game series was concluded in 1955 as WVU made the trek down to Raleigh once again and Lewis had his third consecutive eight win team at WVU. NC State had marginally improved in year 2 under Edwards, including a series of four weeks that included a home tie against Wake Forest and three consecutive road wins over Villanova, Furman, and Boston College. The Mountaineers were coming off consecutive losses to Pitt and Syracuse but were still in the driver’s seat in the SoCon, having gone undefeated in conference play. This game would play out similar to the one the previous year in Morgantown with WVU pulling out a 27-7 win and capping off the season with a stellar 8-2 record. The loss dropped the Wolfpack to 4-5-1 on the season.

WVU has played North Carolina State three times in bowl games and the first of those was the 1972 Peach Bowl. Held at Fulton County Stadium, Bobby Bowden led his eighteenth ranked Mountaineers into Atlanta against a Wolfpack team led by a thirty-five year-old Lou Holtz in his first year in Raleigh. The game was close through the first half with a pair of Frank Nester field goals and  a short touchdown pass from Bernie Galiffa to Danny Buggs putting WVU in the lead 13-7 after one quarter. However, they would not score again as the NC State offense put up forty-two unanswered points in the final three frames behind the efforts of running back Stan Fritts and the passing connection of the Buckey twins, quarterback Dave and wide receiver Don. Despite the disappointment in the loss, this would not be the last time these two teams met in a bowl game that decade.

The 1975 Peach Bowl served as a near mirror of the game played in 1972 with the teams and coaches on the sidelines remaining the same. The scoring would go much differently however, as on the opening drive, the Wolfpack drove seventy-three yards for a touchdown, securing a 7-0 lead they would carry through the first quarter. A field goal by Jay Sherrill made it 10-0 in the second before the Mountaineer offense finally got active with Dan Kendra throwing a 39-yard touchdown to Artie Owens to cut the lead down to 10-6. That score would hold up through halftime, as well as a scoreless third quarter. Kendra drove the Mountaineers down the field in the fourth and, on a pass that bounced off the hands of two defenders, found 6’6″ former basketball player Scott MacDonald from fifty yards out for the go-ahead score. The Pack would drive as far as the WVU 33 yard-line but a sack and a penalty would push them out of scoring range and give the Mountaineers the win. This game was significant going forward for both programs as it was the final game for each head coach. Bowden would be replaced by Frank Cignetti who would only go 17-27 but helped campaign for the construction of a new football stadium while also recruiting the likes of Oliver Luck, Daryl Talley, and Robert Alexander who would be key to Don Nehlen’s early success at WVU. Meanwhile, NC State hired thirty-one year-old former Holtz assistant Bo Rein who became one of the fastest rising stars in the game before being tragically killed in plane crash while on a recruiting trip shortly after being hired at LSU in 1980.

Starting with the first leg of a home-and-home series in 1978, NC State has dominated the series with wins in the last three meetings. Taking place in Raleigh, WVU had reached the rock bottom point of Cignetti’s tenure. Starting sophomore Dutch Hoffman, a player who would infamously set a school record with six interceptions in a game against Colorado State that season, at quarterback, the Mountaineers had one of their better showings in a 2-9 season, falling 29-15 against the Wolfpack.  Meanwhile, NC State was at their peak under Rein, finishing 9-3 with a Tangerine Bowl win over the Pitt Panthers.

In 1979, NC State made their return trip to Morgantown against a slightly improved WVU team. With sophomore Oliver Luck installed under center and a three-headed rushing attack emerging with Robert Alexander, Eldridge Dixon, and Curlin Beck, the Mountaineers improved by three wins to a 5-6 record. Meanwhile the Wolfpack regressed a bit to 7-4 but still were the better team on this day. In the final season at Old Mountaineer Field, were outclassed by their visitors, losing 38-14 to fall to 0-3 on the season. This was the final season for each head coach at their respective schools but for differing reasons. Cignetti was relieved of his duties by athletic director Dick Martin. The Mountaineer coach had battled cancer for the past few years but shortly after being dismissed at WVU, he was declared cancer-free and seven years later was hired as head coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where he built one of the most successful Division II programs in the country, going 182-50-1 in his nineteen years at the helm. In Raleigh, the Wolfpack had their beloved head man Bo Rein hired away by LSU after the season. He never coached a game there after his tragic passing in the aforementioned airplane accident just a few months into his tenure.

It has been nearly nine years since WVU and North Carolina State squared off on the gridiron. That game was, of course, the infamous 2010 Champs Sports Bowl. In what would become Bill Stewart’s final season at WVU, the Mountaineers went 9-3 in the regular season behind sophomore quarterback Geno Smith and senior running back Noel Devine. NC State had gone 8-4 under former Boston College coach Tom O’Brien with an undersized, dual-threat quarterback by the name of Russell Wilson under center. The Mountaineers entered as the favorites but things would quickly go the other way. NC State scored the only points of the first quarter on a Wilson touchdown pass to Mustapha Greene. WVU responded early in the second quarter as Smith found a then-freshman Stedman Bailey for six but the offense could not get much going afterward. Josh Czajkowski hit a pair of field goals for the Wolfpack to make it a 13-7 game at the half. The only points of the third quarter came on another Czajkowski field goal while Wilson hit Jarvis Williams to put the game on ice in the fourth quarter. This would be Bill Stewart’s final game as head coach at WVU, dropping the decision, 23-7. The likes of Smith and Bailey would go on to explode the very next year, winning the Orange Bowl in a romp over the Clemson Tiger, kicking off the Dana Holgerson era with a bang. Wilson would be the most notable name on that NC State team but his time in Raleigh would not be much longer. After graduating in 2010, Wilson announced he would be attending Spring Training with the Colorado Rockies who drafted him in the fourth round of that year’s MLB Draft. This caused conflict with O’Brien who permitted Wilson to leave as a grad transfer, eventually landing at Wisconsin where he led the Badgers to a Big 10 championship and Rose Bowl appearance.

WVU and North Carolina State have been playing one another for over one hundred years. The ten games played have been split right down the middle with five wins for each team. The Wolfpack have a three game winning streak against the Mountaineers but  history has shown that these two programs often compete at a very high level when matched up on the gridiron.

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