The Wolfpacker

November 2013

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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■ pack past Lou Holtz's 1973 ACC Champions The 1973 NC State football team, which reunited and was honored during the Wolfpack's game against Syracuse Oct. 12, finished with a 6-0 mark in ACC play en route to the league title and went 9-3 overall, including a 31-18 victory over No. 19 Kansas in the Liberty Bowl. Photo courtesy nc state media relations By Tim Peeler he turning point of one of the best seasons in NC State football history came after back-to-back losses against two of the top college football programs in the country. And it happened despite a heartbreaking loss to another football powerhouse at the end of the season. The Pack — under second-year head coach Lou Holtz — had high ambitions for 1973, thanks to a spectacular 8-3-1 record in Holtz's inaugural season, which ended with a 49-13 whipping of Bobby Bowden's West Virginia squad in the Peach Bowl. The Pack's split-back veer offense had a quartet of running backs in Willie Burden, Charley Young, Roland Hooks and Stan Fritts, and a quarterback platoon of senior Bruce Shaw and sophomore Dave Buckey. Little wonder the Pack was installed as the league's preseason favorite. State's offense scored an amazing 100 points in its first two games, blowout victories over East Carolina (57‑8) and Virginia (43‑23). It was also leading second-ranked Nebraska 14-10 on the road, thanks to a pair of touchdown runs by Fritts, only to see that lead evaporate when the Cornhusk- T ers scored on three consecutive second-half possessions in a 31-14 loss. The next week, at Georgia, the Pack fell again, 31‑12, to the Bulldogs, despite 160 rushing yards by Burden. With the next game on the schedule being archrival North Carolina, the Pack's three captains called a team meeting. "We sat down and talked about it without any coaches," said All-American offensive guard Bill Yoest. "We said 'We can either turn things around and have a good season or let this affect us and have a bad season.' "It was a very good team meeting, and it ended up being a very good season for us." What happened in the weeks that followed turned Holtz and his team into Atlantic Coast Conference champions. Forty years later, during State's Oct. 12 meeting against Syracuse, more than two dozen members of the team returned to the spot of their greatest glory to recognize the milestone anniversary. Holtz, the legendary coach and current cable television analyst, also appeared for the reunion, though it was via a taped interview from his ESPN studio. The players revisited their turnaround season, which improved immensely with a 28‑26 victory over the Bill Dooley-coached Tar Heels, one of the top games ever played at Carter Stadium. "We knew we had the better team, but North Carolina played us awfully tough," Burden said of the game that rejuvenated the season. "It's always that way with rivalries." The Wolfpack players weren't allowed to say that at the time, however. Holtz forbade his players from talking to the media about the Tar Heels, hoping to quell some of emotion that had spilled over from the previous season, when Holtz called for a gutsy two-point conversion in the waning moments. A pass from Buckey to Burden was incomplete and the Tar Heels won 34‑33, but the Pack served notice that afternoon that it was a program on the rise, realistically ready to end UNC's back-toback conference titles. And for the next 12 months, the rematch was the talk of the state. Holtz's team dominated the Tar Heels for much of the '73 contest, and solidified the win with a remarkable 99-yard touchdown drive late in the first half. Throwing 128  ■  the wolfpacker 128,130.Pack Past.indd 128 10/22/13 11:54 AM

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