PEELER: Pack Eager to Kick Off '09 FB Season
BY TIM PEELER
RALEIGH, N.C. – Thursday night, at 7:03 p.m., the college football world turns its eyes to Carter-Finley Stadium.
That's when the NC State-South Carolina game is slated to kick off the 2009 college football season, ending the preseason talk and starting the in-season walk for both teams. The game, one of nine Division I-A contests Thursday night, will be broadcast nationally by ESPN.
For Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien and his players, it's a time to bask in the spotlight and to regain the momentum from the end of last year, when the Pack won its final four regular-season games and qualified for the Papajohns.com Bowl.
"This is a great opportunity for us to play the first game of the season on national television," O'Brien said. "It is certainly the buzz around town right now.
"For the players, this is a special treat. They look forward to this opportunity to give everyone an indication of where we are in our program, playing against a great team like South Carolina. It will be a great test of our team."
Last year, the same two teams met on a Thursday night at USC's Williams Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks knocked redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Wilson out of the game before halftime and cruised to a 34-0 victory.
O'Brien said his team isn't looking for revenge, any more than NC State is looking to avenge the 31-21 loss to the Gamecocks that opened Carter Stadium 43 years ago on Oct. 6, 1966.
It's a different year, with different players.
"There is no such thing as revenge," O'Brien said. "It was our fault that we lost 34-0. The thing we can gain from it is that we can't make the same mistakes we made last year and expect to be in the football game. We have to be much better on offense to keep the defense off the field. They wore down last year at the end of the game.
"We have to be ready to play from the outset."
Fans will also have to be on the top of their game from the outset on Thursday.
Since the game begins at nearly the same time the Triangle's evening commute ends, traffic will certainly be a difficult challenge for everyone around Carter-Finley Stadium. Parking gates open at 2 p.m.
Fans are encouraged to arrive at their parking spot as early as possible and to avoid missing the 7:03 p.m. kickoff. The season-opening contest will feature all the regular pregame festivities, from the North Carolina Pork Council Pre-Game Pork Patrol to all the exhibitors at FanZone between the RBC Center and the North Entrance to Carter-Finley Stadium. For a full list of FanZone activities, click here.
The football team will participate in the popular Walk of Champions in front of the Murphy Center at 4:30 p.m.
Since the game will be televised by ESPN, fans are encouraged to be in their seats up to a half hour before kickoff. The Wolf Alert system outside the stadium will play a special message from O'Brien 20 minutes before kickoff to remind fans to head into the stadium.
The coach has also recorded a message reminding halftime pass-out fans to head back into the stadium five minutes before the start of the third quarter.
You may contact Tim Peeler at firstname.lastname@example.org.