Turnovers, Penalties Lead to 26-20 'Pack Defeat

<B>CLEMSON, SC --</b> Turnovers and penalties continue to haunt NC State as they fall 26-20 to Clemson.

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    The Wolfpack committed six turnovers on the day, with junior quarterback Jay Davis throwing five interceptions. Davis completed 24 of 45 passes on the day for one score, but those five interceptions proved to be the difference in the game.

    Probably the biggest interception came early in the second quarter when Clemson defensive end Eric Coleman returned a Davis pick 20 yards for a touchdown to give the Tigers a 10-3 lead.

    NC State responded from the Davis miscue with an impressive drive as they marched 80 yards on 13 plays ending in a five-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Davis, knotting the score at 10-10.

    One drive the Wolfpack would like to have back had to be their final drive of the first half. Davis appeared to have thrown two touchdown passes to freshman John Dunlap, but both scores were called back on illegal formation penalties. Tackles Jon Holt and Chris Colmer both were called for the penalties, and NC State wouldn't recover as Davis was intercepted by Justin Miller in the endzone with 3 seconds left in the first half. The Wolfpack came away with zero points on the drive and went into halftime tied 10-10.

    The third quarter would prove critical as the Tigers opened the scoring on a 24-yard strike from Charlie Whitehurst to Airese Currie, giving Clemson a 17-10 lead. Clemson would add two more field goals in the period before NC State scored on a Reggie Davis 10-yard run. Davis's run up the middle pulled NC State back within striking distance, as they trailed 23-17 entering the fourth quarter.

    The game's climax came late in the fourth period after both teams exchanged field goals. NC State, trailing 26-20, marched down the field in the final three minutes before having 1st and goal at Clemson's 11-yard line. Davis and the Wolfpack would not capitalize on the drive, as the quarterback threw his fifth interception on the game's final play.

    "It was the last play of the game, and we were looking for our big tight end," Davis said following the game. "We tried to make something happen, and we didn't. On fourth down you don't want to take a sack… it's kind of stupid. So you've got to throw it and maybe you'll get it… maybe not."

    The Wolfpack once again out gained the opposition, finishing with 381 yards with the defense limiting Clemson to just 267 yards of total offense. The key stat of the game was NC State's six turnovers to just one for the Tigers. Clemson had entered the game with zero points off forced turnovers, but put sixteen points on the scoreboard off Wolfpack miscues.

    Tiger junior quarterback Charlie Whitehurst was 14 of 33 for 183 yards and one touchdown while tailback Reggie Merriweather finished with 51 yards on 15 carries to lead the Tigers on the ground.

    NC State played most of the game without tailback T.A. McLendon and wide receiver Richard Washington. McLendon left the game early in the first half with a shoulder bruise while Washington suffered a knee sprain that forced him out of action before intermission as well. With three offensive line starters already out, NC State's offense could have sputtered but they still racked up 381 yards of total offense against the Tigers.

    "Don't blame that for nothing," Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato responded when asked about the injuries after the game. "With nine seconds to go in the game we had a chance to win it. With all of that. Those kids fought their brains out inside. Luke Lathan didn't have a bad snap. [Jon] Holt played a real good game."

    NC State (4-4 3-3 ACC) is clearly reeling and must bounce back against Georgia Tech (4-3 3-3 ACC) next Saturday in Raleigh. The Wolfpack must win two out of their three final games to be eligible for bowl consideration, with the Yellow Jackets, Florida State, and East Carolina left on the schedule.

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