This is part of a series on Canes football games that have been lost to history. Information on the series including other articles is available here.
The year is 2012. President Barack Obama is in the final year of his first term as president. The week of September 29th, 2012 saw One More Night by Maroon 5 top the Billboard Hot 100 list. And A Wanted Man by Lee Child was #1 on the New York Times fiction best seller list. Gas was $3.82 a gallon. The top international news stories involved civil wars in Somalia and Syria.
Miami came into the game at 3-1, with the loss being a blowout to Kansas State.
NC State also came into the game at 3-1, with their loss being a 2 TD loss against Tennessee.
It was still young in the season, and both teams were trying to find themselves. Miami came into this game having just played an OT classic against Georgia Tech the previous week. No one really knew what to think of Al Golden’s team at this point, but we were pretty sure the defense wasn’t good.
For NC State, they had a big time QB in Mike Glennon, and the questions were around Tom O’Brien. No one really expected NC State to compete for the division with FSU and Clemson.
No one played defense. At all.
And it was a sloppy, poorly played mess.
The game somehow started with 3 consecutive punts, but that was not representative of where this game was heading.
On their 2nd possession of the game, NC State went 68 yards, with chunk plays of 28 yards and 43 yards (through the air and ground) setting up a 1-yard TD run.
The Canes came right back, going 75 yards in 3 plays after Stephen Morris hit Rashawn Scott for 52 yards, Phillip Dorsett for 5 yards, and Allen Hurns who made a great catch in the end zone from 14 yards out to tie the game at 7.
The Wolfpack’s first of many implosions came on the next drive, after a horrible kick return and a penalty, they started on their own 8, and promptly snapped the ball over Glennon’s head. Glennon was tackled out of the back of the end zone retrieving the ball, and the Canes took a 9-7 lead.
It took the Canes just 5 plays to go up 16-7, with Morris hitting Hurns for 40 yards and Dorsett for the 24-yard TD. NC State could not cover the Canes WRs. And after Miami forced another punt (which Dorsett returned for a TD, but was called back on a block in the back), that would prove true again as Morris hit Scott for a 76-yard TD on 3rd-and-2 to put the Canes up 23-7, still in the 1st quarter.
At this point, it looked like the Canes were going to roll to a win, but the slop-fest was just getting started.
The Wolfpack wasted a 50-yard kickoff return to the Miami 44, when 4 plays later, inside the Canes 25, they fumbled and AJ Highsmith recovered. The Canes marched on another drive, moving inside the NC State 5-yard line. On 1st-and-goal from the 2, and with the Canes threatening to go up 30-7, Morris threw an interception with 15 seconds left in the quarter on a play where Clive Walford was wide open and the ball was thrown high, which turned a TD into a touchback.
On the last play of the quarter, Glennon hit Quintin Payton for 73 yards to the Canes 7, mercifully ending an insane quarter. One play into the 2nd quarter, Glennon connected with Tony Creecy for a TD to cut the lead to 9 when the Canes were 2 yards away from making the margin 23 just 20 seconds prior.
With the game at 23-14, and after a rare Miami punt, there is no other way to describe the next series of possessions other than stupid.
-NC State fumbled after one play, and the Canes recovered on the Wolfpack 16.
-After failing to punch the ball after advancing to 1st-and-goal at the NC State 4, which included a fake FG conversion, Jake Wieclaw missed a 19-yard FG.
-NC State strung together a nice drive, moving all the way to the Miami 9. Tobais Palmer caught a pass underneath, and was crossing the first down marker, seemingly destined for the end zone when Brandon McGee just took the ball from him in one motion and returned it to the Canes’ 28, with a personal foul on NC State tacking on another 15 yards, flipping the field position.
-Miami went 3-and-out and punted.
-NC State fumbled again, this time on their own 29, and the Canes recovered.
-Wieclaw missed another FG, this time from 41 yards out.
The game went into the half that way, with Miami up 23-14. Miraculously, NC State fumbled 3 times, entered the Canes red zone, and the Canes had 2 easy FGs in a total of 6 possessions, and yet no one scored.
NC State would fix the scoring drought on the 1st drive of the 3rd quarter. In a game that was conditioned by repeated big plays, NC State finally put together a long drive, but it was, of course, aided by a huge Miami mistake. The Canes actually forced a 3-and-out, giving up 9 yards on 3 plays. But when NC State punted, the Canes ran into the kicker, giving the Wolfpack the first down. From there, NC State marched down the field, culminating in a TD pass on 3rd and goal from the Miami 4 to make the score 23-21. The Wolfpack had eaten up 6:46 off the clock.
After both teams exchanged punts, the game went absolutely crazy again.
-The Canes went 90-yards for a TD, with the big play being a 40-yard completion to Phillip Dorsett. There was another 1st down mistake-aid when NC State jumped offside when the Canes were facing 4th-and-2 at the NC State 7 and attempting a FG. Duke Johnson scored on the next play.
-NC State made another kickoff mistake and started at their own 3. But that just delayed the inevitable as they put together a 97-yard TD drive which included multiple 4th-down conversions, the last of which being Mike Glennon hitting Bryan Underwood for 28 yards and a TD. This should have brought the Wolfpack to within 2, but of course, another screw-up was around the corner and they missed the XP. So the score remained 30-27.
-It took the Canes 7 plays to score their next TD, with the big play being a Dorsett catch of 46 yards. Scott ended up catching the 13-yard TD after the ball bounced off an NC State defender’s face mask (cause why not?) and Miami lead 37-27.
-But NC State only needed 6 plays to pull back within 3, and with 5:35 left in the game, the Canes were clinging to a 37-34 lead.
The teams had exchanged 4 consecutive TDs and racked up 341 yards on those possessions, with the only blinking being that NC State missed an XP so the Canes had gained a point in that back-and-forth. That point would prove critical.
Stephen Morris wasn’t done with big throws, hitting Davon Johnson for 41 yards. But the drive stalled and once again Jake Wieclaw missed, this time from 43 yards out.
NC State now had the ball with just under 4 minutes left and a chance to go in front. They promptly drove into Canes territory, but a false start short-circuited the drive. They did, however, hit a 50-yard FG to tie the game at 37.
With a chance to win the game, Morris connected on consecutive passes totaling 35 yards to take the Canes to the NC State 40. But the drive actually stalled, and for the first time in 8 possessions, a team punted. And the punt was perfect, as Dalton Botts dropped it down at the NC State 4.
There was 1:03 left. NC State had an obvious kicking game advantage, and were at their own 4. The prudent thing to do would be to run the clock out and go to OT. And they actually tried, but the Canes defense was so bad, they couldn’t actually stop the run and Shadrach Thornton busted free for 17 yards. Now, with the ball at their own 21, with 55 seconds left, and with a kicker who had just nailed a 50-yard FG, the Wolfpack decided to attack…and Mike Glennon threw an interception on a deep ball which Thomas Finnie easily caught after QB-WR miscommunication.
There were only 48 seconds left, but the Canes did have the ball on their own 39. 2 plays netted -1 yards. The second play, an attempted run that lost yard, resulted in boos reigning down from the stands. On 3rd-and-11, Morris went for broke, eluding several tacklers, dropping back to his 30, and just letting rip deep to Dorsett who collected it and galloped into the end zone for a 68-yard TD that put the Canes ahead 44-37 with 19 seconds left.
There were only 19 seconds left, but NC State somehow managed to screw up 2 more things. They messed up the kickoff and started from their own 3, and then after gaining 20 yards, Mike Glennon threw an INT on the game’s last play, as AJ Highsmith grabbed it and the Canes somehow came out with a 44-37 victory.
First Half: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOvLRvwWakE
Second Half: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oUBL0YAvF0
Why is it Memorable?
Holy Crap. First, the Dorsett play is famous, but how we got there is insane.
This game was an offensive explosion and just a series of mistakes.
NC State had 664 yards. But they also had 14 penalties for 100 yards and 6 turnovers, including 4 fumbles, and missed an XP.
For the Canes part, they only had the 1 turnover, but missed 3 FGs.
Miami racked up 651 yards, Stephen Morris set a school record with 566 passing yards. He also threw 5 TDs, which was tied for a school record until Jarren Williams broke it in 2019 against Louisville. Phillip Dorsett (191 yards, 2 TDs) and Rashawn Scott (180 yards, 2 TDs) combined for 371 yards and 4 TDs.
NC State multiple times messed up kickoffs and started at their own 3-yard line. Miami’s defense was so bad it benefited from not being able to stop the run because NC State accidentally gained too many yards trying to run the clock out and force OT, which convinced them to try and score in regulation, forcing the turnover that led to the Canes’ winning TD.
Miami should have easily gone up 30-7 in the 1st quarter, but Morris threw high to a wide open Walford and gifted the Wolfpack an Interception. Both teams made penalties on punt/FG plays by jumping offsides ultimately keeping drives alive that went for TDs.
The game was as exciting as it was poorly played. It appeared to be 2 talented yet bad teams (and it was).
The way the game ended probably provides the best summation of this game. With the clock not running, NC State false started. Al Golden, fist in the air, charges out onto the field, confusing the official who thought Golden must know the rule and announces that the penalty requires a 10-second runoff (it does not). Tom O’Brien concurred and shook Golden’s hand, only for the line judge to come in and correct everyone…all of which enabled NC State to turn the ball over again.
This was the quintessential Al Golden game. Terrible defense, massive confusion, mistakes, not understanding the rules of football at times, exciting play makers on offense that can explode, and just overall exciting but low quality.
Since we actually covered the previous game in this season, we already covered how this season ended for Miami. But this was a game where they gave up over 600 yards and won. It confirmed that the defense was horrible. The Canes went 7-5 this year, and won 3 games where they gave up 36, 37, and 45 points…and managed to lose a game where they scored 40.
That Al Golden pretending that this defense was ever going to turn around is just ridiculous. But it is also a fatal flaw in his approach, opting for conservatism versus aggression, trying to rope-a-dope opponents for a team and school that thrives on aggression and knockout blows. Yes, D’Onofrio was a horrible DC, and proved so again at Houston. But that is almost a footnote. As this game proved, even in victory, Golden was just never going to do anything. There is no way to fix the defense when the head coach’s philosophy is just wrong.
So, even in victory, we saw how untenable the approach was. And a week later, everything came crashing down to earth as ND beat the Canes by 38 kicking off a 3-game losing streak
For NC State, they recovered and immediately won against Florida State the next game, handing FSU their only conference loss. It was part of an up-and-down season for the Wolfpack, who would also play Clemson well, but lose to UVA and UNC.