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October 24, 2012
When fifth-year senior linebacker Sterling Lucas was being recruiting out of Orangeburg (S.C.) Wilkinson High School, two of his finalists were NC State and North Carolina.
Lucas of course signed with NC State, where during his sophomore season he was involved in a post-game scuffle of sorts, taking a punch from UNC defensive end Donte Paige-Moss that caused Moss to be suspended.
So more than most players, NC State's defensive captain has a pretty good feel for the rivalry that will reconvene Saturday at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill.
"Obviously it's a big rival game," Lucas acknowledged. "Everybody gets up for this game. It's NC State-North Carolina, so it's a really important game."
But don't expect Lucas to dwell on the past. He has put his recruitment well past him, simply noting, "I'm happy with my decision."
"This is the place that God wanted me to be," he concluded.
Lucas also chooses to look at the big picture of Saturday's game. A win Saturday helps NC State get one step closer to attaining its goals for this season.
"Obviously you don't want to be that class that loses to UNC, obviously," Lucas said. "Like I said, it's a big game. But it is just another game. Our ultimate goal is to go to the ACC championship, and this is another game that we have to win.
"It's just another game. It is a big game, I am not trying to downplay the rivalry or anything, but it is another game. You have to prepare the same way you prepare for Maryland, prepare for Florida State."
As one of the leaders of the team, Lucas said that he is pleased with the team's attitude early in the week of practice.
"I feel like everyone is coming out with the mindset to just go to work on a daily basis," he stated.
Lucas has started all seven games this season for the Pack, and he is fourth on the team with 49 tackles. He also has four hits for loss, two sacks, four quarterback hurries, an interception and one fumble recovery.
He will need to be active Saturday against UNC's physical running attack. The Carolina offensive line has given up just five sacks as well, and UNC is one of just two teams in the ACC to average at least 250 passing yards and 200 rushing yards a game.
UNC redshirt sophomore tailback Giovani Bernard leads the ACC in rushing yards despite missing two contests and getting just two carries against Idaho.
"They look pretty good," Lucas admitted. "They have a really good, big offensive line. They have a lot of veterans on the offensive line, and obviously the running back is pretty good as well.
"He just never gives up on the play."