It has been an interesting season at NC State.
The Wolfpack dealt with swirling winds against Notre Dame and issues that have swirled around them as the season progressed. The team come close to breaking through the duopoly that Florida State and Clemson has over the Atlantic Division with games that the Pack should have won only to lose a homecoming contest to Boston College and continuing its recent poor form against Coastal Division opposition with a home loss to Miami Saturday.
While the performance on the field and the perception others have of the direction of the program has been somewhat inconsistent, the approach that NC State has taken to each game week has varied little.
Through thick and then, NC State head coach Dave Doeren has preached limiting the focus towards winning the week and focusing only on what lies in the immediate future.
Even with a rivalry matchup and bowl eligibility at stake, that approach remains the same as the Pack make the journey to Chapel Hill.
"I've haven't talked a whole lot about the rivalry," Doeren said. "I mean, it's all about us to me. It's been our season. If we can just make the plays, make the layups, I guess you'd say, they're there, and finish those types of plays off, then we're going to be a lot happier at the end of all the games that we play."
For NC State, winning at North Carolina is about as happy as it gets. The Wolfpack used a solid running game to trample the Tar Heels in their last journey to Kenan Stadium but UNC summarily returned the favor last season at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Things have changed since the two schools squared off and Doeren feels one game will not impact the other, which is a variation of the theme he has used the entire season and that Friday's contest is more about where both teams currently stand.
"Every year it's a different team for both sides, and different things involved," Doeren said when asked about the wide swings that have occurred in the rivalry matchup in recent seasons. "With the short week it adds to it, because I'm assuming they're beat up, too, at this point in the year, so you don't have another day of recovery for a certain player. There's going to be some next man in stuff going on in the game probably on both sides that's going to add to it"
There has been one added message the Wolfpack players have received as the final regular season contest approached. While not mentioning any ramifications the game might have, Doeren wants his team to simply expand on the 'winning the week' mentality by letting any dissatisfaction with the team's current plight out on the opposition, which also just happens to be its most bitter rival.
"That's the message for our guys, man, is just take all out all your frustrations out, and do everything you can to end on a great note," Doeren said. "Obviously, we're playing for post-season, so we want to win to continue to play. Want to win for a variety of reasons. These guys just need to cut it loose and play ball."