Nearby North Carolina and Duke rest on lush, attractive sites, but the State campus is a jumble of buildings and parking lots crowded into a section of Raleigh that is divided in half by railroad tracks. In sports State enjoyed a series of good basketball teams under the late Everett Case and produced a few top football players such as Roman Gabriel. But overall, Wolfpack football rarely caused much excitement.
This fall has been different. Edwards had produced fair teams for two years, but they started very slowly. This season, with 17 seniors returning, State got off to a fast start—and the school reacted with rare enthusiasm. In a recent campus election the most pressing issue was a referendum to determine which side of the field students would be allowed to sit on. Even the team mascot, an alleged timberwolf that turned out to be a very docile coyote, has been transformed from a laughing stock into a rallying point, with 1967 being proclaimed the Year of the Kool Kyotie.
The team itself has been cool, winning games with poise and an ability to take advantage of breaks. Students overlooked the lack of speed and spectacular offense, preferring to convince themselves that the defensive players, who all wear white shoes, were leading a team of destiny. The Wolfpack plodded past weak North Carolina and Buffalo in their first two starts, then upset Florida State 20-10 in the game that first showed Edwards he had an unusual team. But the next game was against second-ranked Houston at the Astrodome.
"Everyone made such a big thing of the Astrodome," Edwards said, "that I think it scared some teams before they even got there." So he refused an offer of sample Astroturf to practice on and told his boys it would be just another experience for them. "You should look forward to playing there," he said. "Some day you can tell your grandchildren about it. And, of course, they'll ask you who won the game."
State won 16-6, and the momentum carried them through four of their modest opponents within the ACC. "The Houston game gave us confidence and recognition," said Edwards last week. "But Penn State is certainly the biggest challenge we have faced since then." Claude Gibson, the assistant coach who scouted Penn State, added, "They have so many good athletes that they have kept improving, despite injuries that would have killed our team. And Ted Kwalick, their tight end, may be the best in the country."
It was Kwalick, a 6'3", 222-pound Mike Ditka-type with power and speed, who scored the first touchdown Saturday by making a sensational catch of an 18-yard pass from Sherman. When that was followed up by the Onkotz interception, Penn State had the early lead it badly wanted.
But North Carolina State, which had not been scored on in the first period all year, refused to panic after giving up 13 quick points. The Wolfpack held off three more threats inside their 20-yard line before half time and then took charge of the game in the second half. Penn State gained only eight yards passing and 24 rushing in the last two periods, and North Carolina State seemed to have the ball all the time. Twice the Wolfpack was stopped inside the 10 and settled for field goals by Gerald Warren, the nation's leading kicker.
"When I was 10 years old," Warren says, "I saw Lou Groza on television, and I thought that ain't nothin' I can't do. I've been kicking ever since, and I guess if the pros want me they'll come around." Warren can score from anywhere inside the 40; but now there was not enough time for three more drives into field-goal range. The Wolfpack needed a touchdown. Once runs by Barchuk and Bobby Hall got them to the Penn State 13 but, on second down with short yardage to go, Donnan gambled on a pass over the middle and Penn State Safety Tim Montgomery cut in front of the receiver for an interception.
Still the Kyoties didn't lose their Kool, stopping Penn State and mounting their last drive, which ended when Onkotz met Barchuk head to head.
"That Barchuk is quite a guy," said Onkotz afterward. "Several times when I tackled him he said, 'Way to hit.' "