Pack Needs One More

Getting a grip on the Wolfpack's season is no easy chore, but there's a possibility the team could play its way into a bowl game despite the uneven performances.

There was nothing shoddy about the way the Wolfpack handled Clemson, putting an upset of the ACC's Atlantic Division champion and keeping alive its postseason hopes.

The performance came at a good time because otherwise the Wolfpack would have been still needed a win for bowl-eligibility with one regular-season game remaining. It also might have been the type of result that can keep some pressure off of coach Tom O'Brien, whose five seasons on the job with the Wolfpack have mostly been unspectacular.

The 37-13 whipping of Clemson included a stretch when the Wolfpack scored 30 unanswered points. N.C. State's defense has shown marked improvement during the past few weeks and the offense might be catching on again at just the right time.

"Our defense was able to create good field position for our offense to start with, and it's a lot easier when you get some touchdowns out of it," O'Brien said.

Now it will be a lot easier for the Wolfpack going into the offseason if it defeats Maryland in the regular-season finale and makes its way to a bowl game for the second year in a row.

NOTES, QUOTES
-- It had been 25 years since N.C. State roughed up Clemson to such a degree in a home game. Saturday's 37-13 outcome was the most-lopsided home victory against the Tigers since a 27-3 whipping in 1986.

-- N.C. State teams are 7-5 under coach Tom O'Brien against nationally ranked opposition. But the victory against No. 7 Clemson marked the Wolfpack's first against a Top 10 team with O'Brien in charge. It was also the first time an O'Brien-coached N.C. State team faced a team ranked that high. N.C. State's previous game against a Top 10 also resulted in a victory, defeating Florida State in 2005 in coach Chuck Amato's second-to-last season.

KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Tobias Palmer -- He averaged more than 27 yards a reception, including one going for a touchdown, in the win over Clemson. He shows big-play capabilities and he might be the ideal fit opposite WR T.J. Graham.

LOOKING GOOD: The Wolfpack's defense, which was supposed to be an anchor this year, has emerged in the past few weeks. The Wolfpack has surrendered a total of three touchdowns in the past three games, holding opponents to an average of nine points per game during that stretch.

STILL NEEDS WORK: The Wolfpack allowed an opposing receiver to have a big day, something that hadn't happened much recently but was a problem earlier in the season. With Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins racking up 124 receiving yards, that will give the Wolfpack something to concentrate on limiting in the future.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our goal is to make it to a bowl game and this one means nothing if we don't finish it." -- QB Mike Glennon on defeating Clemson, but needing to also beat Maryland in order to qualify for a bowl.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
-- CB David Amerson has 11 interceptions this year after a pickoff against Clemson. That ties the Atlantic Coast Conference single-season record set by Dre Bly of North Carolina in 1996. The sophomore made his latest interception in the third quarter of the Clemson game.

-- WR T.J. Graham is the all-time ACC leader in kickoff return yardage. He has 2,989 yards on kickoff returns, passing former Maryland player Torrey Smith's mark of 2,983. Graham had two returns for a total of 34 yards against Clemson.

-- TE George Bryan moved into fifth place in school history in touchdown catches when he scored the Wolfpack's first points against Clemson with an 11-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. Bryan, a senior, has 16 career touchdown catches.

ROSTER REPORT
-- RB Curtis Underwood, who began the season by eclipsing 100 yards rushing in the first game, re-appeared in the backfield after he was sidetracked by an injury and slid down the depth chart. He gained nine yards on three carries, though his role is mostly on special teams as the season winds down.

-- K Niklas Sade booted three field goals against Clemson and kicked four successful extra points. Those 13 points resulted in his most productive game in his first season. Nine of those points came in the second quarter, when the Wolfpack's 27 points marked the most in a quarter for the team since a 2005 game against Eastern Kentucky.

-- DT Markus Kuhn has been dealing with an abdomen injury, putting another dent in the defensive line.


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