In front of a packed Carter-Finley Stadium NC State came out hot and gave the third ranked Clemson Tigers a run for their money. However, the Pack was unable to keep pace with the Tiger’s explosive offense and fell 56-41.
Pack Pride takes a look back at the game.
Another Hot Start
NC State has had fast starts all year and that continued again on Saturday. The Pack put together an opening, six play, 75 yard drive culminating in a Jacoby Brissett 13 yard touchdown run. After Clemson responded, Nyheim Hines took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for another Wolfpack score. State was driving yet again before a Brissett fumble at the 45 yard line killed the drive. Thus far in 2015 NC State has outscored the opposition 93-37 in the first quarter.
Grinnage Is Back
After being virtually invisible for most of 2015, junior tight end David Grinnage was back in a big way on Saturday and showed why he’s one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league. He finished with seven catches for 82 yards including a 21-yard TD reception. Grinnage has to be a big part of State’s offense headed forward.
Career Day For A.J. Cole
Perhaps the guy that had the most impressive outing for NC State was P A J Cole. He punted five times for a 50.6 yard per punt average with Clemson netting 0 yards on the day. Cole had three punts of 50+ yards and had one land inside the 20. The future is certainly bright for State at this position with Cole being just a freshman.
Brissett Is A Warrior
Clemson was credited with five sacks but that number would have very likely been double digits for an average quarterback. Brissett was hassled and hit all game long but found ways to extend plays over and over again. Without it, State likely would’ve been blown out with no shot late in the game. I don’t know that Brissett is completely back where he was when he played at his best late in 2014 but he’s close and the Pack will desperately need that in the final four games.
Clemson Offense Owned Line Of Scrimmage
Going in I thought the one place State may have an advantage was the Pack’s defensive line versus the Tiger’s offensive line. Unfortunately the Wolfpack lost this battle. When State has been very good on defense, their defensive line has made the majority of plays. That wasn’t the case Saturday. State generated just two sacks and one QB hurry and were never able to consistently get Clemson QB Deshaun Watson out of his comfort zone.
Some of that was because of scheme, part of it was State could never get Clemson in third and long and the rest was simply getting beat up front. As a result, Watson was able to throw the ball in rhythm and at will.
Tigers Target Stevens, Tocho
How many times did Clemson roll Watson out to their right side? Every time they did the Tigers seemed to go after corners Mike Stevens and Jack Tocho. Unfortunately for the Pack, Clemson’s receivers were able to run right by them over and over again to the point where it felt like they could have done it all game if they chose to.
Dayes Continues Torrid Pace
You have to wonder what might have been if Matt Dayes hadn’t injured his foot at the end of the first half. He had already put up 72 yards on nine carries. His presence may not have changed the final outcome of the game but it certainly had a huge impact on what State had planned to do on offense. I think the nation got a very quick glimpse of how good Dayes really is in the first half.
It’s a shame he was unable to finish the game.
Where State Has To Get Better
One thing you can determine by playing a team as good as Clemson is where you need to improve to get to their level. It was obvious to me that the biggest difference between Clemson and State is team speed. Clemson has it at their skill spots but they also have it on defense. Even when State picked up their blitz and you thought someone would be open, they always seemed to have two or three bodies around the ball because they run so well. It’s clear that State needs to continue to add speed, both at their skill positions (especially wide receiver) and in their back seven to get anywhere near the speed that Clemson plays the game.
Effect On Recruiting
This weekend was the Pack’s biggest of the year as it relates to recruiting. State had tons of their top targets on campus and needed a competitive showing at the very least. I think they got that. The atmosphere was very good to start the game but I think some of that momentum was lost at half time. In all, I think the Pack showed it belonged.
Most of the kids in attendance probably felt that State beating Clemson was a long shot but they wanted to see a passionate fanbase, an energized stadium and a competitive team that may not be that far off. For the most part, I think State covered all three on Saturday.
Halftime Pass Outs
I didn’t hear it but apparently the television announcer commented on the Pack’s lack of fans in the stadium at the beginning of the second half. From a completely personal standpoint- you only get six opportunities to see NC State play in Carter-Finley Stadium. That’s roughly 20 hours of football to last for 12 months. Why in the heck would you waste any of that sitting out in the parking lot, especially when you’re down six at halftime to a top five program. I’m not sure what the answer is.
Personally I’d like to see pass outs ended. At the same time, concessions- especially on the east side- are atrocious. Wolfpack fans like to complain about UNC’s lack of fan support. An empty stadium to start the third quarter looks very Carolina-like. Perhaps Wolfpack fans should just shut up until they clean up their own issues.
At 5-3 the Boston College game has become a must win for NC State. This will be no easy task because BC has a stout defense and they’ll definitely be looking to rebound after uncharacteristically giving up 26 points to Virginia Tech in a loss. In my opinion this is a game that the Pack will have to hit some big plays whether it be in the passing game, defense or special teams. I don’t think State can just grind it out because Boston College’s front seven are good.
On the flip side the Eagles’ offense has been horrible but we’ve seen the Pack let nearly equally inept offenses (Virginia Tech, Louisville) rip off big plays and build confidence as the game wore on. They can’t allow that to happen next Saturday.