It was a continual struggle for the offense to move the ball with any regularity. Quarterback Will Proctor was hit-and-miss. He had some good throws, but he also had as many bad throws. He had two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown that tied the game in the third quarter. Another turnover came when receiver Jacoby Ford lost a fumble that prevented the offense from possibly putting up more points just before the end of the first half. Tailback C.J. Spiller looked good and had another long run for a touchdown. The Tigers also put together long drives late in the game, when they needed them most. It was an average performance, though had Clemson lost, the turnovers would have made the grade lower. The points still aren't there.
The defense looked tired most of the game and just didn't have the energy it displayed the first half of the season. But when the game was on the line, it rose to the occasion and made big play after big play. Yes, N.C. State rushed for 178 yards, 174 of which came from Toney Baker, but the Tigers still made plays. They recorded two interceptions and had a goal-line stand in the first quarter that may have ultimately saved the day. It was definitely a bend-don't-break kind of day. Nonetheless, seven points and key stops mean a good grade.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Had it not been for the 77-yard kickoff return by Ford, this grade would have been lower. N.C. State's kickoff return man Darrell Blackman had two big returns, while another return by fullback John Kane in the final minute allowed the Wolfpack a chance to win the game. Then there were the punt return fiascos with Ford and Spiller. Good thing that placekicker Jad Dean continues to be steady.
Offensive coordinator Rob Spence opened things up a little more and allowed Proctor to throw downfield. While the deep throws weren't that successful, at least it kept the N.C. State defense honest. Keonning had the defense prepared for what plays they saw and Bowden did a good job of overall management, mostly by allowing Spence to open things up a little more.
It wasn't the greatest of wins and the Tigers struggled on both sides of the ball at times. Fans booed early and grew impatient with the lack of offense displayed in the first half. However, Clemson righted the ship and played better in the second half and made two defensive stops in the final minutes to preserve the win. Even though it wasn't spectacular, it put an end to the two-game losing streak and kept the hopes of a 10-win season alive.
Grades: Tigers Beat N.C. State
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