After falling from 4-0 in the ACC to 4-3, the tension in the Wolfpack and its fans had reached a breaking point. But Wolfpackers had supported their team faithfully all season, and were about to be rewarded with yet another upset of FSU. So, please forgive us if we had a little trouble keeping off the field with eight seconds remaining in this season-saving victory.
After it was official, the players themselves had trouble leaving the field, and not solely because we were tugging at their jerseys trying to get a souvenir scrap. It was the last home game, and it's safe to say not many wanted the ride to be over. The fans had trouble pulling down the goal posts, but with the aid a couple players (who were smart enough to keep their helmets on), the deed was done. Right there on the jumbo-tron you could see one young dude swinging from the upright with all his heart, trying to get that thing down. The base of the goal post finally snapped, and happened to do so on the fellow's upswing, creating a remarkable collision between head and upright for all the stadium to see.
And in an instant the turf was covered with throngs of people, and a particularly dense throng trapped between the two fallen uprights. It was majestic, and it was more cathartic than State's last big upset at home of the Noles in 2000. Now, many may disagree, but you can firmly measure the passion of a team's fans by the degree of destruction they wreak after a big win. Since the Peach Bowl committee was present, it was clear that the other goal post had to come down, too.
A ring of burly men in fluorescent yellow jackets formed a semi-circle around the far endzone, tasked with protecting the metal structure that matched the color of their coats. From my stance high in the stands I saw one stealthy fellow try to loop around the back of the semi-circle and make a climb for it, but he was unceremoniously bodyslammed to the turf and either sucker-punched or tickled, I couldn't really tell. He rolled out and was grabbed again and thrown to the masses, laughing gleefully in pain all the while.
Maybe stadium authorities thought they would enforce some sort of compromise with the violently joyful masses, granting us one goal post on the condition that we let them have the other. This plan looked like it would be honored, but there were a lot of people that didn't get to be hit in the head by the first goal post, and that semi-circle was doomed to be broken. I didn't think it would happen, but the mass of people closed in around the officers, and they relented, ignoring the cheers of "Gas 'em!!" from the stands.
Amongst the mayhem the football team and fans congregated in the middle of the field, and like years before, giant FSU linemen stumbled punch-drunk through the crowd. By the time the second pair of uprights had fallen, the first goal post had been dismantled and was trying to make its way out of Section 15. This was where the line was drawn, Carter-Finley was not about to let some fraternity furnish its front yard with a giant yellow flag-pole. The pepper spray was unleashed, and shrieks of celebratory swearing echoed throughout the stands.
To come away from the whole event without any deaths or dismemberments really was a triumph. From above, it looked like people were being flattened into human hash marks on the field. Testament to NC State's turf-care management program, the field was well-designed, giving just enough to accommmodate a student being trampled into its grass.
Gladly, there was little direct violence to FSU fans. Sadly, this included the band. I know most fans that rushed the field went straight for a nice orange pylon, and a few bold ones went for a snazzy first down marker. Personnally, I think someone should have grabbed a big ol' FSU tuba and marched around the stadium mockingly honking out the tomahawk chop song.
While it's true that we've yet to reach the point where wins over FSU are expected and the safety of our football field's equipment is respected, three wins in three years against FSU isn't bad. UVa, Maryland and Georgia Tech made us appreciate a winning season, though perhaps more than we needed to. But the pain is part of the story, and we owed it to ourselves to run on the field to get beat up, survive, and celebrate.
My best memories of this season won't be of State pulling out the win in overtime at Texas Tech, or of T.A. McLendon bowling over Tarheels in Chapel Hill. It will be of hearing the Wolf-Pack chant over the radio when State played Navy in Annapolis, of the sea of red at Kenan Stadium this year, and most of all, of the Carter-Finley faithful standing up and cheering in the face of the team's first loss when Georgia Tech and their irritating fans visited. Saturday, State fans had many opportunities to quit on the Pack, but instead cheered louder after each setback. After State muffed a fake punt and FSU seemingly stole all the momentum by running it back for a touchdown, the crowd shortly thereafter erupted into the Wolf-Pack cheer, and the players responded. After a frustrating failed 4th-and-goal conversion, fans cheered throughout the endless TV timeout into Florida State's possession, and were rewarded with a safety.
When the game was over, State fans deserved to be on the field with the Pack. After all, we've been there in spirit all year.
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