N.C. State was on a three-game winning streak before being plunged into the cauldron of Sun Life Stadium. A high-noon start afforded UM somewhat of a home-field advantage, but certainly not a home-seats advantage. The stadium was about one-third full on a blistering afternoon. A later kickoff would have lured more spectators to watch a team that needs and deserves all the support it can get. The TV schedulers who rule the sports world were not merciful for this ACC matchup.
“I want to thank the fans,” Golden said. “I know it’s hot out there. Our kids treat the sun as an ally, not an enemy.”
Those 2 p.m. midsummer team runs that McGee recalled with a weary smile paid off for UM. When OT seemed inevitable on third down and 11 from UM’s 38-yard line, Morris scrambled to his right, could have looked at his wristwatch if he had one on, scanned the field, saw Dorsett open near the end zone behind three defensive backs. He planted his left foot and, “Here goes nothing,” Morris said. “People dream about that but it’s kind of crazy when you’re in the moment. I was saying before the game, ‘Yo, let’s go deep, let’s attack, let’s have fun.’”
And on the other end, Dorsett was thinking: “I got to catch this, I got to catch this. I could see the corner couldn’t get there. Stephen threw it so far.”
N.C. State could not contain Morris or cover Dorsett.
“It’s like we were running in sand,” said N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien, who said he hadn’t seen a team commit so many mistakes in 38 years of coaching.
UM played an uneven game, too.
The Hurricanes have lots of options on offense. They gained 651 yards. Dorsett and Rashawn Scott led nine receivers by combining for 371 yards and four touchdowns. But after a three-touchdown spurt in a 3 minutes, 33 seconds span, there was a long lull until the end of the third quarter. Kicker Jake Wieclaw had a bad day, missing three field goals. And James and Duke Johnson didn’t get enough carries.
“Our running game wasn’t there,” Morris said. “I left a couple touchdowns out there. As a quarterback, that drives me crazy.”
On defense, lots of vulnerability. The Canes forced six turnovers but gave up 664 yards — second most in school history. They allowed four touchdown passes, two out of two fourth-down conversions and four out of five red zone conversions. They allowed more than 30 points for the fourth time; throw out the 10 points Bethune-Cookman scored and UM’s opponents are averaging 39.2 points.
Golden isn’t kidding himself. He says his players have a long way to go. But the key is, they’re willing to go the extra mile to get there.