The NC State game always makes me a little nervous. The Wolfpack almost always seem to play well against Clemson and today was no different. The Wolfpack coaching staff obviously had their team prepared for the game, and the Tigers just seemed to lack the fire that the number three team in the country should have. It nearly cost them very dearly.
In the first half, the Death Valley crowd, along with some pre-snap shifting by the Tiger defensive line, played a decisive role in the flow of the game as the Wolfpack committed multiple false start penalties. Wayne Gallman couldn’t get his pads under a defender flying in and took a nasty hit that put him out of the game with an apparent concussion. NC State’s defense had obviously decided to come in and lay the wood to the guys in orange.
On the next Clemson possession, Watson kept the drive alive with some good running, but missed a sure TD throw to Deon Cain, and the Tigers came away with a field goal. NC State continued to be plagued by penalties.
The Tiger defense played well in the next few series. Hunter Renfrow returned and made several clutch catches. Superman Christian Wilkins took a direct snap on a fake punt and made a nice run to get the first down. With Gallman out, I wonder if Coach Swinney gave any thought to putting Wilkins in at running back? The running game needed something to get going. (I’d vote for better blocking by the offensive line.) CJ Fuller was running hard but the Tigers missed an opportunity to score when the Wolfpack came through on 4th down. Teams that win national championships find ways to get the ball into the end zone in those situations. I’ll admit to being a bit old school, but there are times when you need your offensive line to line up and punch the defense in the mouth to get that short yardage. So far, I haven’t seen that from the Tigers.
The ensuing drive by the Wolfpack was executed well. I was impressed with their play calling. The Tiger defense ultimately held and the Wolfpack settled for a field goal. The Tigers then went into their two-minute offense and drove down the field. Mike Williams made a nice catch to score and put the Tigers ahead 10-3 at the half.
The Tigers got the ball to start the second half, but Watson threw an ill-advised pass and the Wolfpack obliged him with the first pick-six of his Clemson career. It was the beginning of a turnover epidemic in Death Valley. On the ensuing possession, the Tigers drove the ball down the field but Tyshon Dye had the ball stripped near the goal line. Later, the Tigers had another good drive, but Mike Williams fumbled while trying to get extra yardage. Soon thereafter, Superman Wilkins blocked a Wolfpack field goal attempt after a series where the Tiger defense, again, was playing lights out. Jordan Leggett made a nice catch on the next series to put the Tigers in scoring position, and Watson got his first touchdown run of the year to put the Tigers up 17-10.
The Wolfpack then had a good drive, with some assistance from Tiger penalties, and scored to tie the game at 17-17. The Tiger offense again moved the ball, with Williams making a nice 30-yard catch, but a questionable holding call on Leggett helped stall the drive. NC State then drove down the field, doing a very good job of clock management. With two seconds on the clock, the Wolfpack looked to put the Tigers away, but missed the field goal, and Death Valley erupted.
The Tigers got the ball first and had some miscues, but Watson kept everyone calm, and hit Artavis Scott for the score. The Wolfpack then tried to strike, but Marcus Edmond came through big for the second week in a row, and made the pick in the end zone to seal the win.
The STS team will have in-depth coverage of the game in the coming days, so check back with us as the Tigers head into a bye week and prepare for the trip to Tallahassee in two weeks.