Bowl memories: Holtz leaves NC State, jets to the NFL

December 7, 2011
By Chris Saunders

Photo courtesy of NCSU Libraries, Historical State Collection.

Photo courtesy of NCSU Libraries, Historical State Collection.

With NC State’s recent acceptance of its Belk Bowl invitation, we’d thought it would be interesting to revisit some Wolfpack’s bowl memories. The Peach Bowl, now known as the Chick-fil-A Bowl, was a good place to start since NC State is tied with Clemson at seven for the most appearances by a school in that bowl.

NC State is 4-3 in that bowl, and one of NC State’s three losses stands out as more than a defeat. The Wolfpack lost the 1975 Peach Bowl to the West Virginia Mountaineers, 13-10, as Lou Holtz bid adieu to the program.

NC State defeated Bobby Bowden’s Mountaineers, 49-13, three years earlier in the same contest. But the 1975 Wolfpack team battled injuries and a scoreboard malfunction that caused the referees to keep time on the field and alert the coaches to the clock. As a result, NC State rushed a field goal before half to take a 10-0 lead. However, there was still just under a minute left on the clock, and West Virginia gained momentum by scoring a quick touchdown amid the confusion before halftime.

But the bigger story was that Holtz, who coached the Wolfpack from 1972-75, made his pilgrimage to the NFL after that game, leaving NC State with a record of 33-12-3 while at the helm.

His tenure as head coach of the New York Jets wouldn’t last a full season, and by 1977, he was back in the college ranks, coaching at Arkansas. He went on to coach at Minnesota, Notre Dame (where his team won the 1988 national championship) and South Carolina, his last coaching stop before he became an analyst for ESPN.

Tom Higgins ’76, a nose guard on that ’75 team and now director of officiating for the Canadian Football League, says that Holtz influences him even today because of the coach’s ability to instill belief. “He was a master magician. He had the ability to make people believe. … He was king of the clichés, but clichés have a lot of truth to them,” Higgins says. “Holtz is in you. You can’t separate that out.”

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