Late Run Puts Pack in Belk Bowl

The Wolfpack has been a team that has teetered near destruction at times this season, yet seems to excel with its backs to the wall.

It will have a final chance to continue a late-season resurgence by playing in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., against Louisville. It's a matchup of teams with 7-5 records.

The Wolfpack needed the seven victories to qualify for a bowl game because it owns two wins against Football Championship Subdivision teams. Those were the only teams the Wolfpack defeated until October.

So it has been an uphill climb pretty much the whole season for N.C. State.

"We made it hard on ourselves," safety Earl Wolff said. "We knew we were beating ourselves, so we fought back."

That sentiment holds true for the season in general and also in the regular-season finale against Maryland. N.C. State trailed in that game by 27 points in the second half before rallying for a 56-41 victory.

N.C. State's defense has improved during the latter stages of the season and that in some ways corresponds to Louisville improving on offense as the season went on.

Until the wild final game, the Wolfpack had been stingy on defense, allowing an average of nine points per game in November.

N.C. State and Louisville defeated the teams representing their conferences in the Bowl Championship Series. N.C. State topped Clemson, while Louisville defeated West Virginia. (Clemson and West Virginia meet in the Orange Bowl).

Coach Tom O'Brien of N.C. State has championed the team's motto of "Refuse to Lose," noting the struggles that hit the team throughout the season. Injuries battered the Wolfpack across the first half of the season and it wasn't able to replenish some positions, mainly on the defensive line.

As a result of adjustments, the Wolfpack might have more depth in some places.

In 15 years as a head coach, O'Brien has coached 11 teams to bowl games. In five seasons with the Wolfpack, this marks the team's third bowl berth.

The Wolfpack played in Charlotte's bowl (under a different name) in 2005, which marked the last bowl appearance under former coach Chuck Amato.

That was the last time the Wolfpack finished a season on a three-game winning streak. It has a chance to do that again this year.

The venue should allow N.C. State to have a home-crowd advantage.

BOWL HISTORY: N.C. State is 13-11-1 in bowls, winning four of its last five bowl outings. This will mark only its second in-state bowl appearance as the Wolfpack also won in Charlotte in 2005 by defeating South Florida of the Big East Conference. This will be N.C. State's third consecutive bowl games against a Big East opponent.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's also a great reward for our fans, who always play a major role in our success." -- Coach Tom O'Brien on N.C. State's bowl destination that will keep the Wolfpack in the state of North Carolina to face Louisville in Charlotte.

ROSTER REPORT
-- RB James Washington isn't only the team's top rusher (852 yards), but he's also one of the top pass-catchers for the Wolfpack. He shares the team lead with 39 receptions, the same number as WR T.J. Graham. However, all seven of Washington's touchdowns have come on running plays.

-- FB Taylor Gentry's status might be re-evaluated. He hasn't played since the midway point of the season because of an injury. He was used as a defensive tackle in one game when the injury-riddled line needed extra strength.

-- WR T.J. Graham has a chance to reach 1,000 yards on kickoff returns this season. He has 923 yards on kickoff returns this year on 41 attempts, though his longest one is 46 yards. He's already the ACC's career leader in kickoff return yardage.


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