NCSU Gator Bowl

Happy New Year. My new year started off with a fabulous ending for NC State’s football season — a 28-6 victory over Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl.

Mom, dad, and I, along with several of their friends, drove down to Jacksonville, Florida, to enjoy the festivities. Being my first NCAA bowl game, it was great.

North Carolina State fans had an overwhelming presence, for nearly three quarters of the stadium was painted with fans wearing red. There were only two sections that featured green, in support of the Irish.

I suppose our support showed, for NC State never let the Irish into their end zone, although they were within one yard on two separate occasions.

It was a great way to end one of State’s best seasons. Sure made my dad happy. Here’s a story covering the game, if interested:

NCSU overcomes the luck of the Irish, capping its best season
By J. ANDREW CURLISS, Staff Writer

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. — N.C. State University’s victory in the Gator Bowl on Wednesday gave the school a green-grass stage on which to shape its image before one of its largest audiences ever.

Coach Chuck Amato called the dominating 28-6 win over Notre Dame the biggest in school history. “People in Australia, people in Germany, people around the world were watching it,” Amato said. “It’s absolutely huge. Huge.”

For overjoyed administrators, students and fans, the game was about more than winning a critical football contest.

“We’re showing that we can be competitive in athletics and academics and that we do it with integrity and excellence,” Chancellor Marye Anne Fox said. “This is tremendous.”

Said Athletics Director Lee Fowler: “We couldn’t have asked for any better outcome.”

Not since the Wolfpack won the 1983 NCAA basketball championship on a last-second shot had so many people watched an N.C. State event.

Most were tuned in to see Notre Dame, whose rich tradition and return to glory this season guaranteed a loyal following. But by game’s end, most Irish fans were long gone.

Wolfpack fans, about 35,000 in all, bobbed in the stands, singing fight songs and exchanging hugs.

After the game, Fox — a member of the board of trustees at Notre Dame — stood at midfield and smiled wide. She wore red.

“Wow,” Fox said.

Amato hugged her and joked: “Are they going to keep you on the board of trustees?”

If not for four police horses, State fans would have ripped down the goal posts. Instead, they spilled out of Alltel Stadium and celebrated past dusk.

NBC broadcast the game to an estimated audience of more than 10 million, and the network’s announcers constantly praised the NCSU program and its student-athletes. The players were described as smart, patient, poised and disciplined.

“This is a program on the rise, no question about it,” play-by-play announcer Mike Breen said, twice.

Sprinkled in were plenty of shots of N.C. State fans, flags, signs, cheerleaders and Wuf, the fuzzy mascot.

Jim McCollum, who heads the Gator Bowl selection committee and scouts college programs and their fans, said the game turned into a showcase for N.C. State.

“I’ve never seen a group of fans represent a state better,” he said.

State fans bought a record number of tickets and it showed: The stands were awash in red.

And NCSU did not see any off-the-field incidents that could mar a bowl trip.

Notre Dame fan Tom M. Conley, 66, a real-estate developer from Pittsburgh, said the school’s spirit and fans were impressive all week. Before the game, he thought State was a basketball school from Charlotte.

“This is unreal,” Conley said. “There’s no green anywhere.”

State fans soaked in the scene.

NCSU students Nick Vance, Haddon Kirk, Billy Askey and Jason DeVoe stood in the first row of seats behind the end zone, their bodies painted red and white, front and back, spelling out WOLFPACK.

By the third quarter, they were N.C. State’s four hoarse men.

“I have a headache from the screaming, and my throat hurts,” Kirk said.

“But it’s so worth it,” Vance said. “We’re helping them win.”