Game's Biggest Matchup?

Sophomore right tackle R.J. Mattes nearly picked Clemson back in 2008 when he signed with NC State over dozens of scholarship offers. A major reason he seriously considered the Tigers was the atmosphere he experienced on an unofficial visit for a weekend game.

Sophomore right tackle R.J. Mattes nearly picked Clemson back in 2008 when he signed with NC State over dozens of scholarship offers. A major reason he seriously considered the Tigers was the atmosphere he experienced on an unofficial visit for a weekend game.

He knows as much as anyone how hostile the environment will be this weekend when the Pack heads down to Clemson looking to secure its seventh win of the season.

"When I went down to there for a game it was the loudest game I'd ever been to in high school," said Mattes. "Our crowd is comparable, but they've got so many more people there. It's a loud environment, and we've got to work on our snap counts… be prepared for it.

"I'd still much rather play in that environment though than somewhere that the fans just sit on their hands the whole game."

Mattes will play a major role in the outcome of Saturday's game as lining up across from him is obviously the most-feared pass rusher in college football. Junior defensive end Da'Quan Bowers is second nationally and leads the ACC in sacks (11) and tackles for a loss (18.5).

Although Clemson moves Bowers around some, he primarily lines up over the right tackle which Mattes plays for the Wolfpack. Mattes has also been playing well, and after missing a few games to start the season he hadn't allowed a sack until Thursday night's win over Florida State.

"Talking with some of the scouts that come through there they project him as maybe the No. 1 guy taken in the draft," NC State head coach Tom O'Brien said of Bowers. "I think that says a lot about his ability to get off the edge and rush the passer. It's another week, we faced two pretty good guys that were sack leaders at Florida State last week and we're going to face a better guy this week in Death Valley."

Mattes knows all about Bowers, and their connection goes back to high school when both were members of the 2008 recruiting class. Tabbed the No. 1 recruit in the country by ESPN and the No. 2 recruit by Scout.com, Bowers committed to Clemson early in the process. Bowers, who hails from Bamberg, South Carolina, was selected to represent his state in the 2007 Shrine Bowl while Mattes represented North Carolina. When the duo faced off in the 2007 Shrine Bowl a lot of observers believed it was a matchup of two future Tigers as Mattes was North Carolina's top lineman.

"In the Shrine Bowl days there was a big hype back then," said Mattes. "I hadn't committed anywhere yet so everyone thought I was either going to Clemson or here. The hype was about a Clemson showdown, but I ended up coming here and it ended up being that way.

"I blocked him in the Shrine Bowl, and he was a fast, physical guy. He was combination of everything, and that's why he was one of the best defensive ends in the county. He was that good in high school and now three years down the road I'm sure he's a lot better."

"I've got my hands full this week," added Mattes. "I've been watching him on film and he's got good moves, a good bull rush, and he's quick off the edge."

Bowers is flanked by Andre Branch, another talented pass rusher who gives Clemson a duo that can create problems for opposing offensive lines. It may be a blessing in disguise for Mattes and his fellow linemen that just last week they squared off against Brandon Jenkins, Markus White, and Florida State's explosive defensive front. However, Mattes seems to think Clemson could be an even tougher challenge.

"Florida State is a real fast team," he stated. "Both of their ends are really good and really fast. I think Clemson incorporates even more though. They have the speed, but they also have the strength like Boston College, so I think they are a combination of the two.

"They can beat you off the edge, but they an also come off the edge and bullrush you into the quarterback. You've got to be ready for it."

Assigned with the task of defending star quarterback Russell Wilson is Mattes, senior Jake Vermiglio, and three other sophomores. Left guard Andrew Wallace, center Camden Wentz, and right guard Zach Allen have teamed up with Mattes and Vermiglio to form a unit that has far exceeded expectations this season.

"Me, Zach and Andrew, we came in together and redshirted together," said Mattes. "Camden was a year behind us but he's now a sophomore too and he's in there with us.

"When you add in Jake, we've all got a bond, and it's going to continue. With the four of us sophomores, we've got two more years together and hopefully we will only continue to get better."

Mattes knows that the game against Clemson is huge for his team. NC State controls its own destiny in the Atlantic Division race, and a loss to Clemson could damage their hopes in representing the division in Charlotte in the ACC title game.

"It's a huge game," he said. "To get to where we want to be we've got to win. We control our destiny and we've got to win out. We've got to bring it this weekend. Every game is the ACC championship. We've got to win each one."


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