Wolfpack Rolls Over No. 7 Clemson, 37-13, With 2nd-Quarter Blitz
Nov. 19, 2011
RALEIGH, N.C. - Decked out in red from head to toe, NC State was a white-hot against No. 7 Clemson Saturday afternoon at sold-out Carter-Finley Stadium.
The Wolfpack offense exploded for 27 unanswered points in the second quarter and the defense had four turnovers and six sacks against the ACC's most productive offense in a 37-13 Homecoming victory over the Tigers, the Pack's first win against Clemson since then-senior quarterback Philip Rivers led the Pack to a 17-15 decision at home in 2003.
In a nearly flawless performance with no turnovers, it was the Wolfpack's first win over a top 10 team since it beat Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., in 2005 and the first over a top 10 team at Carter-Finley since beating the No. 2 Seminoles 24-7 in 1998.
"We were very focused on what we needed to get done today," said head coach Tom O'Brien.
It was also a day for season and career records, as senior T.J. Graham became the ACC's all-time leader in kickoff return yardage, sophomore David Amerson tied the ACC's single-season mark with his 11th interception of the season and placekicker Niklas Sade made a career-high three field goals.
Now, the Wolfpack (6-5, 3-4 ACC) has a chance to qualify for a post-season bowl game with a win over Maryland in its regular-season finale. The game is set to kick off at 12:30 at Carter-Finley Stadium and will be shown on the ACC's Regional Sports Network. Tickets are available here.
After Clemson took a brief 3-0 lead in the first quarter, the Wolfpack scored three touchdowns and two field goals in just 11 minutes and 30 seconds to build an insurmountable lead with its biggest second-quarter outburst since scoring 31 on Eastern Kentucky in 2005. It was quite an offensive explosion for a team that had scored just 23 points in its previous 13 quarters.
The turning point of the game could have been with a Wolfpack defensive stand in the first quarter, after Clemson's offense was given a short field on a disputed punt return. The Wolfpack defense held strong, allowing only a pair of field goals by Chandler Catanzaro until the Tigers scored its only touchdown of the game with 1:22 remaining on the clock.
"We came out and played fast the entire game," said linebacker Terrell Manning, who had two big fumble recoveries in the contest. "We were ready to play."
Clemson (9-2, 6-2) entered the game as the ACC's top offensive team, averaging 37.3 points and 478.1 yards in total offense. The Tigers managed just 34 yards rushing and 303 passing for a total of 337.
The Wolfpack answered shortly after Catanzaro's first kick with a seven-play drive in which junior quarterback Mike Glennon relied heavily on senior tight end George Bryan, hitting him with three passes, including an 11-yard pass for the Pack's first touchdown of the day.
Three plays later, Wolfpack defensive tackle Art Norman slapped the ball out of Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd's hand on a sack inside the Clemson 10-yard line. Linebacker Terrell Manning recovered the fumble at the 6, setting up Glennon's second touchdown pass of the afternoon.
Senior Jay Smith made a diving catch of the 7-yard pass to give the Pack a 14-3 advantage.
On the next possession, the Tigers dropped the ball again on a failed reverse by Mike Bellamy. Manning again recovered the miscue, this time on the 18-yard line. The Wolfpack made one first down, but turned the turnover into a 17-3 advantage on a 21-yard field goal Niklas Sade with 7:26 to play in the first half.
The Tiger offense was stuffed and backed up against its goal line on its next possession and punter Dawson Zimmerman was forced to kick from deep in his end zone. Wolfpack wide receiver T.J. Graham returned the punt 34 yards to the Clemson 11-yard line. Two plays later, redshirt freshman Anthony Creecy scored on a 4-yard run.
The Wolfpack scored one more time before intermission, after a 36-yard pass to Tobais Palmer. Sade kicked a 32-yarder with just five seconds remaining on the clock.
Sade, a freshman from Raleigh, added his third of the afternoon, a 24-yarder, on the Wolfpack's first possession of the second half, pushing the Pack's lead to 30-3. The Tigers managed another field goal of 32 yards by Catanzaro, but the Pack answered quickly on a 43-yard touchdown reception by Palmer, who broke tackles from sideline to end zone on one of the season's most acrobatic plays.
In the first quarter, the Wolfpack punted from deep in its own territory and Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins appeared to have muffed the fair catch, though officials on the field ruled otherwise. O'Brien used his challenge to have the play reviewed, but the ruling on the field was upheld.
Clemson moved inside the 10-yard line, but could not find the end zone, settling for a 24-yard field goal by Catanzaro with 8:50 remaining in the first quarter. But the Tigers never moved the ball consistently for the rest of the afternoon against a determined Wolfpack defense.
"That was a huge series for us, to be able to stop them after not getting the ball," Manning said. "Our guys didn't get down about it. We just went out and played harder.
"I give the offense a lot of credit for going out there and playing its best game of the season."
The defense didn't do badly either.
"I'd say it's the best performance of the season, other than the Carolina game," Graham said.
The Tigers had just 34 yards rushing on the day, while the Wolfpack received double-barrel contributions from Creecy (65 rushing yards) and senior James Washington (86). Glennon finished the contest with 19 completions in 29 attempts for 253 yards and three touchdown passes.
Graham had four receptions for 54 yards and Palmer had three catches for 82 yards.
By Tim Peeler, email@example.com.