The Wolfpacker

September 2015

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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94 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY TIM PEELER N C State's 2015 season will be the 50th played at the concrete edifice by the state fairgrounds, which opened on Oct. 8, 1966, with a 31-21 loss to South Carolina. Next year, the school will celebrate the golden an- niversary of that first season, so it can include all 50 seasons of great plays, remarkable players and accomplished coaches. This will be the last chance for anyone to be added to the half-century pantheon of Carter-Finley's finest. The stadium, named for brothers Nick and Harry Carter and Raleigh philanthro- pist A.E. Finley, is unique in the annals of state-owned sports facilities, in the way that it was financed and how it was built. Half of the original $3.5 million construc- tion cost was paid for with Wolfpack Club fundraising and half was paid with a po- tentially crippling bond that was paid off some 29 years early. Until a big push began in 2000, the stadium sat without many upgrades since it was first opened. That dramatically changed with close to $150 million in improvements over the last 15 years. The lower bowl was closed in. Vaughn Towers added four-levels of luxury and press seating. The Murphy Center is a grand operations center that includes offices, weight-training facilities and a heritage museum. The Dail Practice Facility provides two natural grass fields and one artificial field for training. And the newly opened Close-King Indoor Practice Facility gives football and other programs a place to train regardless of weather. There are more improvements on the draw- ing board, but they will come in the stadium's next half century. The obvious question, of course, is what are the most memorable moments since the dry lakebed of a research fish hatchery was turned into a sprawling 60,000-seat stadium complex? That's one of those things that will auto-lock a message board thread in just a few weeks. Surely such a list would include Torry Holt's punt return against Florida State back in 1998, when the Wolfpack handed the No. 2 ranked Seminoles a 24-7 beating in perhaps the biggest upset in school history. There would be gimpy running back T.A. McLendon's bulldozing 38-yard sprint to the end zone against Virginia in 2003 with just 23 seconds remaining, breaking a 37-37 tie in what would be a 51-37 victory. The list would be populated with things like Erik Kramer's pass to Danny Peebles in the 1986 win over South Carolina on a bonus play after time expired, a slew of Philip Rivers' side-arm pushes, running back Ted Brown breaking away for touchdowns in his tear-away jersey and the magical escapes of Russell Wilson. It would also include the game in 1971 when Wake Forest was lining up for a game- winning field goal with just 22 seconds re- maining on a rainy afternoon. The Demon Deacons' kicker slipped in the mud, the ball squirted loose and NC State's Bill Miller picked it up and started running for the goal line. From the sidelines, Wake quarterback Larry Russell tackled Miller to prevent him from scoring. Game officials eventually awarded the touchdown and NC State won 21-14, in the long forgotten only home win for interim coach Al Michaels. Individually, the list of Carter-Finley's greatest players would include the underap- preciated efforts of Outland Trophy-winning center Jim Ritcher, and defensive monsters like tackle Dennis Byrd, linebackers Bill Cowher, Vaughan Johnson and Levar Fisher, safety Jesse Campbell, end Mario Williams and cornerback David Amerson. The biggest heartbreak had to be seeing Penn State kicker Herb Menhardt's wobbling 54-yard kick bounce off the right upright and through the goalposts in a 9-7 loss in 1979; unless it was seeing Rivers' No. 17 jersey retirement ruined by a 26-24 loss to Orange- bowl bound Maryland. The Wolfpack's home field was built because of the efforts of NC State Athletic Hall of Fame coach Earle Edwards, who en- dured seven or eight road games a year for much of his tenure in order to raise the funds needed to get a new stadium built. He was willing to go anywhere to get a replacement for crumbling Riddick Stadium. Head coach Lou Holtz (1972-75) will forever be the "King of Carter Stadium," owning three of the five no-loss seasons in the stadium's history. In four seasons, Holtz lost just one home game, a 30-22 setback against Wake Forest. In all, he was 20-1-1 at home during his tenure, back before the stadium added Finley to its name. The coming year will be another chance to have the first undefeated season since 1986, when first-year coach Dick Sheridan led the Pack to a 6-0-1 home record. The lone blemish was a thrill- ing, come-from-behind tie against Pittsburgh. (Yes, I meant "thrilling, come-from-behind tie.") In July, the Rolling Stones returned for their third show in Carter-Finley, rekindling the rock concert excitement provided by such acts as Pink Floyd, Van Halen, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Buffet, the Grateful Dead, The Who and U2. It was the perfect way to round out the first 50 years and a good start to putting Carter-Finley back in the concert business. Fans will recall the traditions of Wolfpack football they made at Carter-Finley, of kids sliding down the old grassy bank in the south end zone on cardboard boxes, of long tailgates in the unspoiled parking fields that surround the complex, of being stuck in three hours of traffic on a Saturday when a home game co- incided with the N.C. State Fair across Trinity Road. New memories with family and friends are waiting to be made. So far, the Wolfpack has won 190 of the 301 games played in the first 49 years of Carter-Finley. What will be the last greatest memory of the first half-century? ■ ■ PACK PERSPECTIVE NC State Will Celebrate A Half-Century At Carter-Finley Stadium Tim Peeler is a regular contributor to The Wolfpacker. You may contact him at The Wolfpacker is a publication of: Coman Publishing Company, Inc., P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Offices are located at 324 Blackwell St., Ste. 1020, Durham, N.C. 27701. (919) 688-0218. The Wolfpacker (ISSN 0273-8945) is published bimonthly. A subscription is $39.95 for six issues. For advertising or subscription information, call (800) 421-7751 or write The Wolfpacker. Postmaster: Send address changes to: The Wolfpacker, P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Periodical mail postage paid at Durham, N.C. 27702 and additional offices. First-class postage is $14 extra per year. E-mail: • Web site: Running back T.A. McLendon's game-winning 38-yard touchdown run with just 23 seconds remaining versus Virginia in 2003 is among the many memorable moments in Carter-Finley Stadium's 50-year history. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

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