NC State has edge in ACC football rivalry, but Wake has spoiled some big moments for Pack

·4 min read
Ethan Hyman/ehyman@newsobserver.com

N.C. State’s annual matchup with one of its oldest rivals will soon come to an end.

The Wolfpack has played Wake Forest each year since 1910 in a series that began in 1895. With the ACC announcing its new 3-5-5 scheduling model on Tuesday, the streak of annual meetings will come to an end in 2025.

N.C. State’s three primary opponents from 2023-26 will be UNC, Duke and Clemson. Wake’s primary opponents will be Duke, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. But the Wolfpack and Demon Deacons will play a home-and-home series in 2023 and ‘24.

The Pack leads the all-time series against the Demon Deacons, 67-42-6.

In recent years, though, Wake Forest has equaled more heartbreak for the Wolfpack.

Here’s a look at four games with the Demon Deacons that Pack fans would like to forget.

2003 - Wake Forest 38, N.C. State 24

In week two of the 2003 season, N.C. State was ranked No. 14 in the country and primed for a top-15 showdown at defending national champ Ohio State the following week. Coming off its best season in school history, the Pack was ready to make a jump in the national standings. The previous year, N.C. State got as high as No. 10 in the polls and looked to build off that early in 2003.

All the Wolfpack had to do was win the tune up game with Wake Forest to set up a showdown between two undefeated teams.

Wake Forest had other plans. The Wolfpack never led as the Demon Deacons scored 21 points in the second quarter and led the Pack 28-10 at halftime. Philip Rivers was picked off twice in the game and N.C. State backed into Columbus with a loss. N.C. State wouldn’t win in Winston-Salem again until 2015.

2017 - Wake Forest 30, N.C. State 24

The Wolfpack rolled into Winston-Salem ranked No. 19 in the country and had its sights set on a 10-win season in 2017.

The Pack finished that year 9-4, letting the one in Winston-Salem slip away.

Having some momentum coming off a road win over Boston College, N.C. State was looking for a fourth straight win over Wake Forest. N.C. State out gained Wake Forest 502-334 and ran 38 more plays.

But the Demon Deacons drove 73 yards in eight plays to take the lead with 2:35 remaining.

Trailing by six, N.C. State moved the ball to the 11-yard line, but freshman wide receiver Emeka Emezie lost a fumble as he reached for the endzone. The Demon Deacons recovered at the one, securing a victory. That game was the first of three straight losses in Winston-Salem for the Pack.

The Wolfpack defensive front, with four future NFL players, never sacked John Wolford.

2018 - Wake Forest 27, N.C. State 23

Night games at Carter-Finley Stadium, especially Thursday night games, never lack drama. Prior to this Thursday night game, the Pack jumped several spots in the College Football Playoff rankings and were eyeing a New Year’s Six bowl game. For the second straight season, a ranked N.C. State team (No. 22) fell to Wake Forest due to a Demon Deacons’ offensive explosion in the fourth quarter.

This time the charge was led by Jamie Newman, who was making his first career start. Newman threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to cap off the comeback victory. On his senior night, N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley passed for 374 yards and one score. Newman finished with 297 passing yards and three scores.

The Pack finished 9-4 overall, with a game against Wake Forest slipping away in the final quarter, for the second straight year.

2021 - Wake Forest 45, N.C. State 42

The path seemed simple for N.C. State — beat Wake Forest, win the Atlantic, play for an ACC championship.

The Wolfpack was a questionable onside kick call away from getting the ball back and potentially winning the game last season against the Demon Deacons. N.C. State trailed by 14 points in the second quarter, only to rally back and take the lead, 27-24, on a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Zonovan Knight. Wake Forest scored consecutive touchdowns to go up by 11, before the Pack had to battle back once more.

N.C. State got two more touchdown passes from Devin Leary in the fourth quarter, but the Wake Forest win was sealed when Ricky Person was called for illegal touching on an onside kick it appeared the Pack recovered.

The Demon Deacons would go on to secure the Atlantic Division in the final weekend of the regular season and play in the ACC championship game.

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