It was imperative for NC State that they started fast in Death Valley... and they didn't.
Clemson started with the ball and quickly faced a third down, that they converted. Three plays later, they converted another third down. On the very next play, Tiger quarterback Deshaun Watson hits Mike Williams for a 56-yard touchdown.
NC State's offense takes over and goes three-and-out. Six plays later, the Tiger duo connects again for a long touchdown. Two more drives, same results. Just like that NC State was down 21-0 and the Tigers never looked back.
They were able to build a lead and NC State's offense couldn't get a ground game going. Next thing you know, Tiger All-American defensive end Vic Beasley and the rest of their defensive front were all over Jacoby Brissett.
You can't go on the road against a talented team like Clemson and allow them to set the tone. NC State set the tone in their first road game at South Florida. They wilted today.
NC State's offense could never get anything going. They couldn't block up front. Jacoby Brissett struggled with the Tiger pressure and getting rid of the ball on time. Receivers didn't consistently get separation. Tight ends and tailbacks were no help in the blocking or ground game.
Just look at the numbers. The Wolfpack had just 156 yards of total offense. 0 points. 3 turnovers. Brutal.
NC State came in the No. 1 offense in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They were far from that, and it was so bad that it's actually concerning.
Was it just an off-game? The Pack surely hopes so.
LOSING ON THIRD DOWN
On both sides of the ball, NC State was dominated on third down. The offense was just 3-of-14 on 3rd down while Clemson finished 12-of-19.
What was disheartening was the ease that Clemson converted. The Tigers converted four 3-and-5 or more opportunities in the first three drives without completing a pass across the line of scrimmage. You can't allow that to happen.
Simply put, NC State couldn't get off the field on defense and was so bad offensively that they couldn't sustain drives.
LIMITING THE BIG PLAY
NC State had to come in with the gameplan of looking to force Watson and the Tigers to march down the field with extended drives. However, that didn't happen, and it burned them.
Clemson's first two touchdowns were 56 and 41-yard pass plays respectively where safety Hakim Jones bit on a double-move and Jones and Burris allowed Williams to run by them.
NC State actually went with freshmen Germaine Pratt and Josh Jones for much of the game after starting Jones and senior Jarvis Byrd, and the two freshman played fairly well.
Clemson finished the game with 14 "chunk" plays, which consists of runs of 10+ yards and passing plays of 15+ yards. NC State had just seven such plays.
Coach Doeren referenced the youth of his team earlier in the week and if there is any sort of silver lining in this game it is that a lot of those guys received quality reps, and made a few plays.
True freshman defensive tackle B.J. Hill came off the bench to record eight tackles and a sack. Redshirt freshman Josh Jones had five tackles, three pass breakups, and a sack. True freshmen Kentavius Street, Germaine Pratt, and Mike Stevens all made some plays defensively.
It would be nice to be past the point where you're happy with getting freshmen experience, but that is where NC State's at right now.
Well, NC State faces Boston College at home and it's a must win for the Wolfpack. It's a winnable game against a team that's had struggles, and there will be several top recruits on campus for the game.
It's unfortunate for State that they play in the Atlantic Division and even worse that they started league play with Florida State and Clemson, but they need a strong showing, and a victory versus the Eagles.
With a road game against Louisville, who has a similar defense to Clemson, looming, the Pack must bounce back.