Dave Doeren said it himself, so there’s really not a lot to debate here: N.C. State’s 27-21 win over Clemson in two overtimes was the marquee win missing from Doeren’s resume.
Despite the narrative that he can’t win the games he’s not supposed to, Doeren has, in fact, beaten ranked teams.
He’s beaten ranked teams on the road; at home; at night. It has happened.
The two things he hadn’t done? Beat a team in the top 10, and beat the Tigers.
Doeren was asked flat out if he would consider this the biggest win of his career.
“I would,” Doeren told the media in his postgame press conference. “I think it’s put us in a position, not only because they’re a top-10 team and it’s our first ACC game of the year, and the number of times that we’ve had a chance to beat them and couldn’t. The number of times they’ve been in the playoff, National Championship game, that’s a great football program that we just beat.”
Clemson came into Carter-Finley with eight straight wins over the Pack, and had won 15 of the previous 16 in the series.
Doeren was 0-10 in his previous meetings against teams ranked in the top-10. Lucky number 11 saw the Pack take a 14-7 lead in the second half and have to score twice in overtime to end their misfortune against Clemson. The N.C. State defense got a stop on fourth-and-one, turning the field at Carter-Finley Stadium into a sea of red as fans rushed the field. With hundreds of supporters surrounding him, Doeren laughed, cried, danced and hugged everyone in sight.
“It hasn’t happened here,” Doeren said after fans stormed the field. “I’m glad it did. I’m glad security let the fans down there. It’s awesome. That’s how it should be. That’s college football, man. That’s what it’s all about.”
Let’s take a look at some of his other big wins in Raleigh.
27-21 over No. 11 Florida State (2017). This game in Tallahassee was Doeren’s first win over a ranked opponent. Leading up to the Clemson game this week, Doeren referenced that win over FSU five years ago as a turning point for the program. The Pack led by as many as 10 in the first half and never trailed.
39-25 over No. 17 Louisville (2017). Two weeks after the win over Florida State, the Wolfpack welcomed Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals to Carter-Finley Stadium. Many fans consider this one of the best environments inside the Carter in recent years. The N.C. State defense sacked Jackson four times in the win. Following the wins over FSU and Louisville, it was the first time since 2006 the Pack defeated two ranked ACC opponents in the same season.
28-21 over UNC (2016). Not all the “big wins” came over ranked opponents. Doeren has said this road win over the rival Tar Heels in 2016 might have saved his job. The Wolfpack came to Chapel Hill 5-6 and needed a win in the regular season finale to become bowl eligible. N.C. State jumped out to a 21-0 lead over UNC and saved the season with a seven-point win.
30-29 over No. 24 Pitt (2020). It had been a while since N.C. State had beaten a ranked opponent and the fanbase was getting restless. In Devin Leary’s first start of 2020, the Wolfpack left Pittsburgh with a one-point win in dramatic fashion. Leary led the team on a game-winning drive, connecting with Emeka Emezie on a 13-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds remaining.
What does NC State’s win mean?
Dethroning Clemson means the ACC Atlantic Division is wide open for the first time in forever. There’s still a lot of football remaining, but N.C. State fans should allow themselves to be excited about the possibilities of this season.
The Tigers looked vulnerable and could definitely lose again within division play. The Wolfpack won’t have it easy, though, just because they knocked off the bully off the block. N.C. State steps out of conference play one more time, hosting Louisiana Tech on Saturday. After that a trip to Boston College looms and it’s all conference play from there.
Inside the Atlantic, there are three teams — N.C. State, Wake Forest, Louisville — undefeated in conference play. The Eagles have yet to play a conference game, but are undefeated overall. The Wolfpack have two out of divisional conference games remaining — at Miami, home against North Carolina — that are both winnable. Even if they lose, N.C. State could still have a shot at the ACC title game if they take care of business inside the division.
Easier said than done.
The Demon Deacons have always been a tough out for the Wolfpack and N.C. State is 3-7 all-time at Boston College.
The Wolfpack will probably be favored in at least five of their remaining eight games.
What about an encore?
Saturday’s win was the first over an opponent ranked in the top-10 since 2012, when N.C. State defeated No. 3 Florida State 17-16.
How has the Wolfpack handled the next game after beating a top-10 opponent? In recent memory, probably better than you think.
After the win over the Noles in 2012, N.C. State went to Maryland and won 20-18. In 2011, the Pack defeated No. 7 Clemson 37-13. The following week they beat the Terrapins, 56-14. Maybe the team should see if they can swap Louisiana Tech with Maryland next week.
Those two wins were during the Tom O’Brien era. If you talk to any N.C. State fans who might be shell-shocked heading into this week, it’s probably because they have nightmares or what might happen next.
In 2005, the Pack defeated No. 9 Florida State, 20-15, only to get knocked off by 20 to an unranked Boston College team the next week. In 2001, the Pack beat No. 10 FSU 34-28 and lost the next week to Maryland 23-19. One thing about Chuck Amato, he could get his teams up for that Florida State game.
Doeren’s next opponent, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, happens to be the same team Doeren defeated in his first game as N.C. State’s head coach in 2013.