It is our privilege here at STAT BOX STORIES today to feature a contribution to the BOWL BLITZ INVITATIONAL project from Owen Good, author of the “Stick Jockey” columns for Kotaku.com. One of Owen’s previous sports video game features at Kotaku–a series known as “Box Scores”–actually served as a major inspiration for the idea that spawned STAT BOX STORIES. Since he is a big fan of the North Carolina State Wolfpack, it seemed only right to see if he would play their Belk Bowl match-up against the Louisville Cardinals in NCAA Football 12. Here’s his BOWL BLITZ INVITATIONAL experience:
I’ll be honest, N.C. State’s bowl game this year, for me anyway, was North Carolina. I had zero expectations of the Wolfpack after QB #16’s defection to Wisconsin, and a dispiriting spate of injuries further made this appear to be a lost season. Then UNC’s inconsequential seatwarmer of a head coach chose to run his mouth about the subject that pisses us off the most: Academics.
Everett Withers sniffed about State’s poor graduation rates in an interview, reminding folks that UNC-Chapel Hill is the state’s “flagship” university. Which it is, truthfully. Flagship U’s football team also committed actual academic fraud, one of a litany of reasons Withers was in charge of the program this year and not Butch Davis.
Withers failed to understand that having players who are so stupid you have to pay tutors to do their homework is a lot worse than an honestly earned graduation rate, however low. Head coach Tom O’Brien played Withers’ comments for the team before taking the field, reminding them that State’s students and alumni expected their team to do something about it. State, as angry as we have ever been in this rivalry, went and shut out North Carolina for the first time in 50 years.
Though our next game was a terrible loss to Boston College in Chestnut Hill, it seemed to be a turning point. The Wolfpack walloped a disinterested Clemson in the Textile Bowl 37-13. Then State spotted Maryland a 41-14 lead and unloaded 35 fourth quarter points to beat the Terrapins, by far the ACC’s family embarrassment after a 1-10 season spent prancing around in Under Armour’s stripper costumes and clown suits.
I could have cared less that the victory made us bowl eligible. The payback served to North Carolina and to Maryland (for poison-mouth Gary Williams meddling in our basketball coaching search), plus the delightful surprise win over eventual ACC champion Clempson, made this season enough of a success for me. Plus, as this introduction should make clear, ACC football is an incestuous little backwater whose dealings really matter only to the combatants. State plays best when it’s payback time, and we have no quarrel with Louisville, our Belk Bowl dancing partner. The two sides have met just three times, with the Cardinals winning all of them. (The first, in 1951, featured a quarterback by the name of John Unitas.)
But I’ll take a December game in Charlotte, because it means my university won’t go broke flying to some dump halfway across the country and will in fact put butts in the seats, unlike North Carolina’s why-bother appearance in the Weedwhacker Bowl last night. Brian Parker, who knows I am a 1995 State graduate and a diehard State partisan, asked me to play as the Wolfpack against Louisville in the Belk Bowl in EA SPORTS NCAA Football 12, and I was happy to oblige.
Note: I adjusted the Wolfpack’s depth chart to reflect the most current alignment according to State’s sports information department itself. I’m using accurate rosters from Fairdale Kings. The game was played on All-American difficulty with seven-minute quarters.
Both teams looked rusty in the first quarter. State’s opening drive reached Louisville’s 39 and stalled, and the Cardinals stuffed HB #24 on 4th-and-1. Louisville followed that drive with one that ended with a fake punt pass from midfield. State’s QB #8 closed out the first quarter with an interception; Louisville’s MLB #46 went robo-linebacker to spear a pass intended for WR #6 with the Wolfpack driving into Louisville territory.
The Cardinals’ drive went nowhere against an underappreciated Wolfpack defense. QB #8 got State on the board first, capping a 70 yard drive by audibling to a slant and finding WR #6 for an 11 yard touchdown and an easy 6. After Louisville went three-and-out, a great punt return by the same receiver keyed a six-play, 58-yard drive that HB #24 sealed with a weaving, 12-yard draw through the middle of the field vacated by a blitzing Louisville.
State’s WR #20, a converted cornerback, was de-cleated on that drive and sent out of the game with a bruised sternum. He asked back in on the next series and when QB #8 saw Louisville showing single-coverage on the 5-11 wideout, bombed him for a 47-yard gain down to the Louisville 3. HB #24 strolled in for his second score, and State led 21-0.
The Wolfpack shifted into game management mode, betting that Louisville would have a difficult time coming back against a three-touchdown lead against their defense. HB #24 carried 31 times for 154 yards and three touchdowns, most of that coming in the second half. Louisville ended the shutout with a 48-yard field goal midway through the third quarter, and threatened in the fourth when quarterback QB #4 found running back HB #20 for a 34-yard touchdown pass on a wheel route with 4:49 left. Louisville converted the 2-point attempt and trailed by 10 with plenty of time left in the game.
WR #6 botched the kickoff but recovered his fumble, giving the Wolfpack the ball on their own three. QB #8 assembled a brilliant 11-play, 97 yard drive, capped by HB #24’s third score of the day, a seven-yard plunge with 14 seconds left. Louisville provided the icing when HB #20 fumbled on the game’s final drive, and the 6-3, 290-pound DT #55 ran it in 17 yards, sending up a Fat Guy Touchdown Alert on Twitter.
Following a season left for dead after week five, N.C. State ends up with eight victories, some bronze hardware from a profitable bowl visit, and turned the likes of Carolina and Maryland into trophy rugs. I think there’s a decent shot that tonight’s Belk Bowl will turn out like the one I played on my Xbox 360. Maybe others around the country don’t care, but that’s a very good year to me.
Once again, it has been an honor to be able to feature Owen’s writing here at STAT BOX STORIES for the BOWL BLITZ INVITATIONAL, and we hope you enjoyed his take on NC State’s season and their Belk Bowl appearance tonight. Be sure to come back to the site tomorrow for even more NCAA Football 12 Bowl Game action!
Guest Author Bio:
Owen Good is the sports columnist for Kotaku (http://kotaku.com/stickjockey), the video game publication of Gawker Media. He is a 1995 graduate of North Carolina State University and was sports editor of its student newspaper. You can follow Owen on Twitter at @owengood for musings on both video game and real-world sporting events.