State-Carolina Rivalry Results
Jolted Brown, Doeren Tenures;
Both Have Built Strong Programs
With In-State Recruiting Pipeline

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

In 2016, NC State coach Dave Doeren, then in his fourth season with the Wolfpack, faced a regular-season finale against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. At the time, his overall record as the leader of the Pack was 23-26, and his ACC mark was a woeful 8-23, although he had taken State to bowl games in 2014 and 2015.

Doeren’s 2016 road matchup against the favored Tar Heels meant the difference between finishing 6-6 and making a third consecutive bowl appearance versus finishing 5-7 and missing the postseason for the second time in his four years in Raleigh.

The 5-6 Wolfpack upset the 8-3 Tar Heels, then coached by Larry Fedora, by a 28-21 score at Kenan Stadium. That evened Doeren’s record against Carolina at 2-2.

“That win,” Doeren said later, “probably saved my job.”

Instead of Doeren losing his job after the 2016 season, Fedora lost his job two years later, after consecutive losses to Doeren and the Wolfpack in 2016, 2017 and 2018. At the time, State was beating Carolina on the field and on the recruiting trail, especially in North Carolina.

Doeren, 51, since has become the winningest coach in NC State football history. He’s 80-57 during his 11 seasons in Raleigh, and while he’s still only 43-46 in ACC games, he’s 6-4 against the Tar Heels heading into Saturday night’s rivalry game at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.

UNC coach Mack Brown, 72, has a somewhat similar rivalry story to tell. During his first tenure with the Tar Heels, he lost his first five matchups against the Wolfpack (1988-92), then led by Dick Sheridan, one of the best coaches in State history.

Sheridan’s retirement after the 1992 season for health reasons coincided with the ongoing rise of UNC under Brown, who immediately led the Tar Heels to five consecutive victories (1993-97) over the Wolfpack immediately before leaving Carolina to take the Texas job.

Since Brown’s return to Chapel Hill before the 2019 season, the State-Carolina matchup has returned to an equilibrium of sorts. The Tar Heels won convincingly in 2019 (41-10) and 2020 (48-21), then the Wolfpack responded by winning close games in 2021 (34-30) and 2022 (30-27 in double overtime).

Although UNC has dominated the rivalry in the historical sense (68–38–6, going all the way back to 1894), over the last 30 years, the Tar Heels’ edge is only 16-14. Over the last 16 years, the Wolfpack has a significant advantage (11-5).

Brown, a recruiting magician throughout his Hall of Fame career, once again has rejuvenated the Tar Heels in that regard.

Recent Carolina standouts such as in-state quarterback Sam Howell (a Florida State commitment before Brown’s hiring) and Georgia wide receiver Josh Downs, four-star prospects who could have gone anywhere, now represent the Tar Heels in the National Football League. Current UNC stars and All-ACC candidates such as quarterback Drake Maye (an Alabama commitment before Brown’s hiring), running back Omarion Hampton, tight end Bryson Nesbit, linebacker Cedric Gray and linebacker Power Echols also were consensus four-star prospects while playing for their respective North Carolina high schools.

Doeren also has recruited well, especially in-state. (See below for a breakdown of the Tar Heels’ and Wolfpack’s top in-state contributors this season.) Interestingly, his two best players this year, All-American linebacker Payton Wilson and sensational freshman wide receiver KC Concepcion, had UNC and NC State as their co-finalists before choosing the Wolfpack.

Wilson, a product of Hillsborough Orange High School, not far from Chapel Hill, actually committed to Carolina as a prep prospect before changing his mind and signing with State. Now a sixth-year senior, he’s become one of the best defensive players in Wolfpack football history.

(19 In-State Contributors)

Offensive Starters From NC (4)

Defensive Starters From NC (5)

Special Teams Starters From NC (4)

Significant Non-Starters From NC (6)

(22 In-State Contributors)

Offensive Starters From NC (5)

Defensive Starters From NC (9)

Significant Non-Starters From NC (5)

*—2023 All-ACC candidate