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Observer on the Ground: NC State

| Monday, September 11, 2023

Our journey began just before noon on Friday when we headed to the South Bend airport to fly to Raleigh-Durham, a direct flight that was only available temporarily for the game. As a resident of the Raleigh area, I couldn’t help but wish that the flight would become a permanent fixture. In this case, though, I was very grateful to cut several hours off the time the trip usually takes.

The flight was short and not very crowded and we made it to Raleigh without issue. Having dropped off our bags in the hotel, we shifted our attention to determining dinner plans. After a long deliberation, we eventually settled on Morgan Street Food Hall.

This didn’t do any favors for our decision-making difficulties. Our restaurant of choice was, in fact, a large food court-style plaza in downtown Raleigh that contained more than 20 separate restaurants. Round two of deliberations commenced and it ended up turning out well. We found outdoor seating and each selected varying cuisines that ranged from empanadas to a prime rib sandwich to pizza.

At the last second, we decided to go to an escape room after dinner on Friday night. We were delayed while attempting to find a ride, but the employees generously accommodated our late arrival. We got off to a relatively strong start in the cursed mansion-themed room. However, we lost some traction toward the middle of the hour that we were given to solve the puzzles.

With things looking grim, we made a clutch run down the stretch. Aided by the game master providing us with about eight or nine of our three allotted hints, we escaped with less than a minute remaining. At one point, we may or may not have noticed that time had been added to the countdown clock. But we were absolutely willing to turn a blind eye and take the win, finishing the first day of the trip on a high note.

The next morning was game day. We were looking forward to getting an early start before the noon kickoff, hoping to take some time to explore the stadium and surrounding area. Those plans quickly changed when we awoke to the sight of pouring rain and the sound of nearby thunder. If that wasn’t enough to quash our idea of heading out early, the flash flood warning that buzzed onto our phones soon after certainly did the trick.

After enjoying a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we started making our way to the stadium about 90 minutes before kickoff, anticipating heavy traffic and having little to no idea how to get to the media section. But the staff was extremely helpful and friendly, pointing us in the right direction.

Upon entering the NC State press box, we were immediately impressed. The box at Notre Dame Stadium is likely among the nicest in terms of college venues, but it was rivaled by the spaciousness and amenities offered at Carter-Finley. From our aerial vantage point, it looked like the stadium was nearly full. We also noticed a strong contingent of green, blue and gold shirts interspersed among the Wolfpack fans.

The Irish held a 3-0 lead after a mostly quiet first quarter and a lightning delay brought the game to a halt soon after. The announcement of the game’s suspension was met with audible disappointment from the crowd. Still, the need to find cover quickly became apparent as heavy rain began to fall and continuous thunder became audible. One particularly nearby lightning strike shorted out NC State’s brand-new video board.

Those of us in the press box had comparatively little to complain about during the delay. We stayed put while everyone else cleared out of the stadium. Most spectators found refuge in their cars or the nearby PNC Arena. Even the Notre Dame football team may have had it worse, as they ran out of food and had no dry clothes to change into.

As the ominous weather continued, it became clear that the delay might not be a particularly brief one. I started to lose hope upon hearing other media members say that the game could proceed as long as they “get it in by midnight”. At that point, I anticipated having to stay at the stadium all night. However, those fears were quickly assuaged as the game resumed after a delay of just under two hours.

The stadium contained a somewhat strange energy after fans were allowed to reenter. The NC State student section returned in full force, but there were notably more empty seats than before. Many people likely weighed the pros and cons and decided that waiting out the delay wasn’t worth it.

Because of that, and with Notre Dame pulling away in the fourth quarter, the crowd noise seemed to slowly dissipate over the course of the second half. We even heard some pro-Irish chants in the final minutes of Notre Dame’s 45-24 win.

The game ended more than five hours after the noon start time. By the time we finished writing our postgame stories, it was past 7 p.m. It didn’t really register how long we had been at the stadium until we noticed that Texas-Alabama, a game we had planned to watch several hours after returning from Carter-Finley, had begun while we were still in the press box.

One of our Uber drivers on Saturday evening reacted positively when we informed him of Notre Dame’s win. He explained that it would mean less traffic later in the night with fewer NC State students being out and about after the loss than after a Wolfpack win. Regardless of the reasoning, it was nice to encounter an Irish fan after a Notre Dame victory in enemy territory.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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