When Giovani Bernard passed the last North Carolina State defender in his last minute punt return touchdown, he essentially put the final nail in the Wolfpack’s ACC title hopes’ coffin. While Bernard and his North Carolina teammates celebrated a 43-35 victory over their in-state rival, the realization of what this loss meant washed over NC State.
Before this game started, the Wolfpack were in control of their own destiny. They had one conference loss and had already beaten the Atlantic Division favorite, Florida State, on their own field. If the Pack won every game remaining on their schedule then they would have represented the Atlantic Division in the ACC Championship Game. The loss to the Tar Heels tossed that scenario out the window in a hurry.
The only way that State can win the division now is if they win every remaining game on their schedule and hope that the Seminoles lose a conference game. The chances of either of those things happening are slim. Florida State’s toughest remaining ACC game is on the road against Virginia Tech, but the Hokies have been a major disappointment this year and it is doubtful that they can upset the Seminoles.
Even if Virginia Tech somehow beats FSU, then NC State must win the rest of their games. That is a tall task in itself considering that the Pack has a road game against Clemson looming on November 17th.
It just goes to show you how hard it is to consistently win in the ACC and contend for the title. A perfect punt by NC State’s Wil Baumann was hit just a little too perfectly. He outkicked his coverage and, to their credit, the Tar Heels built a perfect blocking wall and Bernard did the rest. He returned the ball 74 yards and may have cost the Wolfpack a chance at the ACC Championship.