Nov. 14, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. -
NC State looks to improve its bowl position with a trip down to No. 11 Clemson on Saturday.
NC State comes into the ACC battle having won seven of the last 11 games against ranked foes. The Pack is also looking for its second win against a top-15 foe this season, a feat that has only been accomplished three previous times in school history.
“That’s the challenge: playing a really explosive Clemson football team,” said head coach Tom O’Brien. “They’ve got playmakers at every spot on offense - a really tough challenge for the defense to defend. That’s what’s great about the challenge. You’ve got to go on the road and play a top team, so it’s an exciting time.”
The Pack’s defense was the spark in the 37-6 home win against Wake Forest this past weekend. The Demon Deacons finished with just 185 yards of offense, just 16 on the ground.
“We want to do that on a consistent basis. Last week we had a great win, a team win,” said junior corner Dontae Johnson who was named co-ACC Defensive Back of the Week for his performance in that game.
The Clemson offense possess a great challenge for the Pack as well.
“They are great athletes. They are putting up big numbers all year,” said Johnson.
The Tigers come into the contest leading the ACC in total offense with 513.8 yards a game, and are second in the conference scoring 42.9 points a game.
“The first thing is they (the coaches) do a good job of putting them (the receivers) in situations where they can be successful,” said O’Brien. “They’re schematic in how they try to get guys, whether it’s double moves, whether it’s play-action fakes and getting the ball deep. They like to throw the ball deep. They like to throw the fades, the fade stops.
“They have the one kid that’s 6’5-6’6 and they like to get the ball up high to him, but the other kids can run, and I think you’re looking at a similar receiving core, maybe better than what we saw when we played Florida State.”
Clemson wideout DeAndre Hopkins ranks second in the NCAA with his 14 TD catches, and he is paired with sophomore Sammy Watkins who missed last year’s contest with a shoulder injury.
“It’s definitely a huge game,” said Johnson. “We’re just ready for the challenge.”
The battle on third down will also be key this Saturday as well.
NC State comes in ranked third nationally in third down defense, as opponents have converted just 25.3 percent (38-150) of their third down tries. The Tigers are on the other end of the spectrum, as they are third nationally in third down offense, converting 53.21 percent (83-156) of their tries.
“Clemson has great athletes all across the board, offense and defense,” said Johnson. “Last year we just played with an energy and passion, the whole team. We’ve just got to bring that this week.”
The Pack does not have to look any further on how a strong defensive performance can lead to an upset of Clemson then just back to last year.
No. 7 Clemson came to Carter-Finley in late November, and left with a 37-13 defeat, a win that was key to the Pack’s late season success.
While the Pack’s offense turned out 27 points in the second quarter, it was the defense’s ability to slow the Tigers offense that led to the upset.
Clemson finished with 337 yards of total offense, including just 34 yards rushing. The Pack forced four Clemson turnovers, and the Tigers found the endzone just once that day.
“I don’t think that this team will be intimidated or afraid to let everything go in this football game,” said O’Brien. “We’re in a situation [where] we’ve got a lot to play for, and you always want to be challenged. If Clemson’s the best or near the best in the conference, let’s go see what we can do.”