The Wolfpacker

July-August 2022

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 53 of 59

54 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY TIM PEELER M emories get muddled. Details overlap. Individual seasons are confused. Over the past 20 years, some of the moments of clarity from the longest and most successful season in NC State football history may have faded for even the most diehard followers of the pro- gram. Ask former Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato for a few details from 2002 — Dantonio Burnette's and Terrence Holt's senior season, Philip Rivers' and Jerricho Cotchery's junior year and freshman tailback T.A. McLendon's spectacular (if injury-riddled) college debut — and only one really sticks out from the record- setting 11-3 season. "I have no idea," said Amato, who turned 76 on June 26. "All I know is that we beat the crap out of Notre Dame." Few could put it better. Amato knew, even back then, what that 28-6 whipping in the 2003 Gator Bowl would mean for every player on the Wolfpack roster. He knew that anni- versaries such as this would roll around, every five years, every 10 years, on the quarter-century marks, all the way to the end of their lives, and he wanted them to have more than just a few scat- tered memories and some bowl gifts from a lively week of activity in Jack- sonville, Fla., when they came back to Carter-Finley Stadium to be hurriedly recognized between quarters of an early- season nonconference game. He wanted them to have an experience on the field of Alltel Stadium, a little grass in their cleats and some game- sweat stains on their game-worn jersey. "At the end of the game, we were beat- ing them pretty well, and I called all the student managers, graduate assistants and coaches together and told them: 'I want every kid to play at least one snap in this football game,'" Amato said in a recent interview. It was one of the proudest moments of the former Wolfpack linebacker's nearly half-century coaching career, from its beginning at his hometown Easton (Pa.) Area High to a pair of national titles as Bobby Bowden's associate head coach at Florida State to taking over as head coach of his alma mater (2000-06). "At that point, I knew they weren't going to beat us," Amato said. "I wanted every player on the team to be able to tell their kids and their grandkids and great-grandkids that they played on a team that beat Notre Dame. "And beat them bad." How bad? Toward the end of the game, Joe Sinford, a 5-foot-7, 153-pound PACK PAST 20 Years Ago, The Wolfpack Concluded A Historic Season With A Victory For The Ages The 2002 Wolfpack squad finished with a school-record 11 wins, punctuated by a decisive victory against Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl. PHOTO BY MIKE PITTMAN

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