Tobacco Road, Game 1: Howling with the 'Pack


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North America » United States » North Carolina » Raleigh
October 10th 2019
Published: October 12th 2019
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The third time's the charm, at least for my personal attendance with NC State. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk about a week of firsts for me.

Some of my faithful readers (or at least the ones who read last week’s post at Mercer) may be saying, “Hang on a minute. Weren’t you supposed to be at Oregon this weekend? Why are you in North Carolina?” That a fair question, and it has a painful answer. I left my wallet at home before I took the airport shuttle to ATL, and so I wasn’t going to be able to check into the hotels I had arranged. The airline was unhelpful, and I was going to have to book an entirely new flight after going back to Athens and then to the airport again, and I don’t have an extra $600 lying around for that. So, long story short, I was forgetful, and it means I’m not in Oregon. I’m trying to look on the bright side. I did sell both of my football tickets for Oregon and Oregon State, and I’m using that money for the tickets I’ve bought for games in North Carolina. I was able to cancel all but the first night of my hotel reservations, so that saved me $300 and only cost $80. Plus I don’t need a car rental, so there’s another $140 saved. And I get to see several people I haven’t seen in a while.

Now, where were we? Yes, I woke up the day after my unfortunate forgetfulness and decided that I needed to leave Athens, today. On the way back from the airport yesterday, I was looking at ways to salvage this debacle. I did commit to going to different football games every weekend, and since I wasn’t going to be in Oregon, I needed to find somewhere else. I looked at going to Texas-Oklahoma in Dallas, but that was minimum $300. I thought I might finally get to Ohio State, but they’re off this weekend. I could stay in town and watch UGA beat up on South Carolina (always a favorite thing to watch), but I’ve already been to UGA this season. The Research Triangle has been a place I’ve kept my eye on, for two reasons: first, I have a friend at Duke, Christopher, so there’s a good chance we could hang out and maybe even attend games together; and second, with all these schools in such proximity, it could be possible to hit up several in one or two days. This weekend, Duke and Wake Forest are home, and they’re less than an hour’s drive from each other. And NC State was playing on Thursday (tonight), so that has the potential for a weekend triple header in North Carolina. Tickets for Duke are free (if Chris picks them up), and the other two games were available for less than $20 each. I got back $50 for my Oregon/Oregon State tickets, so it was a pretty even match. Plus none of these games has a lopsided prediction, so that makes me more inclined to pay a visit—a more interesting game.

When I woke up this morning, I had ideas about getting out of town early and hanging out in Raleigh before the game at NC State. Those ideas were thwarted by my fatigue. And then I took a little longer to get ready, since I knew I didn’t HAVE to leave early. Then I decided to get my oil changed, since it was getting to be that time. And of course, that took about two hours, and they found more problems with the car, which I have no money to repair. We’ll see how long that takes. And so, instead of an early start, I was rolling out of Athens at noon, for an approximately six-hour drive to Raleigh, home of NC State.

Before I left home, I checked Twitter (wasteland of narcissism) to see if there were any special notes about tonight’s game. Of course there were: it was going to be a White Out. So my first stop would be some swag shop for NC State to find a white shirt. It should’ve been a simple drive, mostly interstate the entire way. But I cannot begin to tell you how much I hate North Carolina’s roads. I used to think they were just low quality, a decade or so ago. Now, I absolutely dread driving through the state, and I can’t seem to remember this until I’m back in it again. Every time I’ve driven through North Carolina this football season, it’s always the same. One or both sides of the interstate are basically at a standstill, due to lane closures. It’s infuriating, especially when you’ve already been driving for three hours and you’ve got a deadline. Ugh.

Somehow, though, I made it to the NC State student center at close to the original arrival time, and after parking in a spot that I probably didn’t have legal access to, I went inside and found that they were being more generous than expected: long-sleeve white t-shirts for $16. That’s about what I paid for my Wal-Mart FSU shirt. Apparently, they were hoping people would make the commitment to White Out the stadium.

The next stop was parking, and the only real problem is that Carter Finley Stadium, home of the NC State football program, isn’t near campus. Maybe in the grand scheme of things, it is, but it was three miles from the student center to the stadium. I think it’s a block or two away from the Vet School, so maybe that’s close. I paid $20 for the privilege to park in a grassy lot next to a fairground, and it was, I believe, the closest parking available without a permit. Ok. It was still about a fifteen-minute walk to the stadium. And I saw lots of tailgating, first having to walk through the fraternity and sorority parties, then the more seasoned tailgaters. It wasn’t too shabby.

I got to the stadium gates just before 7:00, so of course they were already open. And they were a model of efficiency. No long lines, no pat downs, no craziness. They scanned my phone for the ticket and I was in.

It’s a pretty nice place, all things considered. It’s got room for just over 57,000 people, but it feels bigger. The facilities are all modern, with lots of space on the concourse for people to walk and get concessions. And they’ve got several food trucks on the concourse, too, so that gives it more of a small-stadium feel. I myself got a Which Wich sandwich at halftime, and it hit the spot. The only real complaint about the stadium is the restroom facilities. No, they’re not swamps. There just doesn’t seem to be enough. The lines out the men’s rooms were incredible. And ubiquitous. There was no getting around them, trying to find a shorter line elsewhere. Maybe expand the size, or make more of them. I also got a souvenir cup, which isn’t advertised on any menu at any concession stand. They don’t have fountain drinks, so they give you a small (compared to other stadium souvenir cups) cup filled with ice, and then they hand you a 20-oz bottle of the soda you asked for. It’s $4, which is a little pricey for that size of a cup. Still, it’s the cheapest souvenir cup I’ve bought all season, and I told that to the ladies who sold it to me.

The pre-game show involved the marching band, a lot. And they put on a good show. Then there was the arrival of Mr. and Ms. Wuf, the male and female mascots dressed in wolf costumes. This game was not only a White Out (which was mostly observed by the home crowd) but also Military Appreciation Day. Aside from the normal recognition of veterans, ROTC members, and videos from active-duty service members with ties to NC State, the festivities also included a flyover with fighter jets tailing multi-colored sparks from their engines. It was a pretty cool visual, almost like a rainbow behind the planes. And let’s not forget the flag porn at halftime when they brought out and unfurled an American flag the size of the entire football field. Check the pictures.

I always like to meet up with people I know at these games, and it’s usually people I haven’t seen in a while. I had planned on meeting Logan, a former kid from Passport Camps (like Riley at Mississippi State a few weeks ago) that I hadn’t seen since 2016. He had graduated high school that year and spent a couple years at junior college before transferring to NC State. I had seen his posts on Facebook and Instagram, and we had corresponded infrequently for the past three years. So when I opted for this game, I told him I would be there and asked if I could get a seat near him if I could get a ticket for the game. As a student, he was in the student section, which is guarded until sometime in the second half. And indeed, at the start of the fourth quarter, he texted to let me know it was safe for me to come into the student section. It was a much different—and more enjoyable—experience there than in the seat I had paid for, in the opposite endzone from the student section.

One group of people I absolutely HADN’T expected to encounter was the Foushee family: Laura, Carson, and little Ada (she’s only six months old!). I know Laura and Carson from my days at McAfee School of Theology, a decade ago. They’re now missionaries in Japan. So I was totally surprised when I saw them walking about ten feet away from me. I recognized them immediately, though it took a second to process. Shouldn’t they be in Japan? But then I remembered that Laura was a big NC State fan, and it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility, so…. And they recognized me but had that same “Certainly not, why would he be here?” moment. So I got to meet little Ada for the first time, and we had a good laugh about how small the world is.

As far as the game itself goes, it had its moments. I liked the crowd interaction, though it never got loud. It probably got loud comparatively, but having been to UGA and Mississippi State in the past month, I can’t say it ever got THAT loud. Plus, the first half of the game saw a lot of nothing happen. NC State scored a field goal on their first two possessions and kept Syracuse off the board for the first half. But with two minutes left in the first half, the score remained 6-0. Then, as with the game at FSU, the home team finally woke up and scored a touchdown to take a 13-0 lead into the half. Syracuse did make a try for a field goal as time expired, but the kick doinked off the left upright for no points.

The second half started the same way, with a whole lot of nothing until late in the third quarter. NC State got another field goal, extending their lead to 16-0. It was all NC State for the first forty-plus minutes of the game. Then Syracuse decided to make things interesting. But a good number of people had left the stadium by this point, so they missed all the drama. ‘Cuse got a field goal just before the end of the third, which really was a problematic choice. A touchdown followed by a two-point conversion would’ve cut the Wolfpack lead in half and meant Syracuse only needed to score one more time. A field goal means they still needed to score twice again. And it took them nearly the entire fourth quarter to do that. Only their second score, and only the second touchdown of the game, Syracuse had now scored ten points. It would take another touchdown to make any difference, however. By this point, I was in the student section and enjoying the palpable dread from everyone around me. Several penalties against Syracuse forced them into long yardage, and so they punted. And NC State went all of nowhere in less than a minute. So Syracuse got the ball back with just under two minutes left in the game. A couple of big plays put them within striking distance, but the NC State defense showed up to force an incompletion and a sack. Two false start penalties in the final thirty seconds of the game really sunk the Syracuse effort, and indeed that is how the game ended. I had never see that happen before.

I walked back to my car, and by the time I got to it, the parking “lot” was nearly empty. I was able to make a left turn out of it and then follow that road to the interstate in what has to be the easiest exit I’ve ever made after a football game. That was a wonderful way to end a stressful day.


Additional photos below
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12th October 2019
It was Military Appreciation Day, so we get some flag porn

Great shot
Very cool

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