If Justin Fuente is out doing any holiday shopping on Black Friday, the Virginia Tech coach may want to get something — as Cousin Eddie might put it — nice. Real nice for Dave Doeren.
NC State knocked off in-state rival North Carolina 28-21, an upset that handed the Hokies the ACC Coastal Division title before they even took the field Saturday against Virginia.
Virginia Tech will now meet No. 4 Clemson On Dec. 3 in Orlando.
Expectedly, emotions were high in a rivalry game, as a skirmish broke out after a bizarre fumble. NC State running back Matthew Dayes lost the ball and it hit off of at least eight players before a pile up. Benches cleared and the Tar Heels' Jalen Dalton was ultimately ejected for throwing a punch.
For Doeren, the repercussions of this win could be huge.
If there was any speculation as to his job security in Raleigh, he squelched that talk as the Wolfpack got the sixth win they needed to get to a bowl.
NC State finished 3-5 in the conference, but played powers Clemson and Florida State close only to drop both by seven (Tigers) and four (Seminoles) points.
Up 21 twice against the Tar Heels, finally, the Wolfpack held on.
“It definitely makes you feel the worth of all your work,” Doeren said. “We're playing every game but one — Louisville — for four quarters, toe to toe, with every team. We haven't won enough of them. I agree. But we are so much more competitive than we've ever been.”
Much to the Tar Heels' chagrin as they lost to both of their neighboring schools — falling to Duke 28-27 on Nov. 10 — and neither were .500 when they met. Those losses proved critical in keeping North Carolina out of the title game for the second straight year.
“That's on us,” Tar Heels running back Elijah Hood told reporters. “We've got to go out there — we're on the football field, the ball's coming to us, we've got to make that catch. There's really no excuse for it.”
But Hood and Co. weren't helped by a defense that has had issue stopping the run all season long, but it's been an even bigger issue of late for a unit that's ranked 114th (233.4). In back-to-back games against Miami and Virginia on Oct. 15 and 22, coordinator Gene Chizik's defense limited the Hurricanes to 139 yards and the Cavaliers to 110. Any progress those performances might have suggested was cast aside as Georgia Tech then went for 374, Duke had 227 and then The Citadel rumbled for 344 (granted, it attempted eight passes, but it was still an eye-opener).
The Wolfpack continued to pile it on, torching the Tar Heels for 259 yards, 104 and two touchdowns via Dayes.
“Bottom line,” said North Carolina coach Larry Fedora, “is that we didn't make enough of the ordinary plays that we usually make to win a football game.”
Or, to do their part to stay in a division race that now belongs to the Hokies.