Home Woes Continue For State

RALEIGH, NC -- It was a nightmare for an NC State defense that could not stop Clemson tailback James Davis on the ground or quarterback Charlie Whitehurst through the air, as the Tigers whipped the Wolfpack 31-10.

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    Davis, Whitehurst, and the Clemson offense were more than the N.C State defense could handle in the first half, tallying 28 points on 299 yards of total offense.

    "Charlie did a great job of ball location, and I thought the receivers did a great job," Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden said after the game.

    Davis carried for 139 of the Tigers' first half yards, scoring two touchdowns, before he suffered a fractured left wrist on the first play of the second half.

    "He's got some acceleration and arm strength and leg strength to break arm tackles," Bowden said of Davis. "He can run tackle-to-tackle pretty good and when he gets outside, he has a second gear, which is kind of what you need."

    Clemson's first touchdown came with 39 seconds left in the first quarter on a six-yard pass from Whitehurst to receiver Curtis Baham. However, the key play of the drive, and perhaps the game, wasn't the Baham reception but instead a near-interception by the Wolfpack.

    After forcing two three-and-outs on Clemson's first two possessions, NC State again had the Tigers in trouble on their third drive as on third-and-four Whitehurst attempted a bubble screen pass to Chansi Stuckey. However, Wolfpack linebacker Stephen Tulloch read the play correctly and cut in front of the Tiger receiver, but the ball went through his hands and bounced into the hands of Stuckey who picked up 22 yards on the play. That play led to Clemson's first score and possibly gave Whitehurst and the Tiger offense the momentum needed to win a tough ACC game on the road.

    "It was quite a game there for a while, and one play I think did something to turn it all around," said Wolfpack head coach Chuck Amato. "There's a little screen pass, we're all over the thing, and we miss the opportunity to make a play on that. They make a big play out of it and go down and score and then it just steamrolled."

    "People told me to keep my head up about it, but that would have been so much of a game changer," Tulloch said of the play following the game. "That could have definitely changed the momentum of the game."

    That initial touchdown opened the floodgates for the Clemson offense, particularly dynamite freshman tailback James Davis. Davis took over in the second quarter, during which he gained 115 yards and set up the Tigers' second touchdown with a 30-yard scamper. Three plays later Whitehurst completed an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Bobby Williamson that put Clemson ahead 14-0.

    On the following NC State possession, a Toney Baker fumble gave the Tigers back the ball and Davis took advantage. He rushed for a 12-yard touchdown, just three minutes after their last score, and pushing the Tiger lead to 21-0.

    What was Clemson doing to offset NC State's strong defensive line? The Tigers outschemed the Wolfpack, as Davis mentioned following the game. During Clemson's bye week, offensive coordinator Rob Spence installed a new formation that NC State hadn't seen on Tiger gamefilm, and it led to huge holes in the running game.

    "The first time we ran it in practice, I broke it way up the middle for a touchdown," Davis said. "Everybody was really excited about that formation we did put in because you can do all sorts of things out of that formation.

    "I was a little surprised (at how easy it was) with them being a top defense. They bring a lot of pressure up the middle, and I figured it would be hard to get the running game going."

    "They had a great gameplan," said NC State defensive end Mario Williams. "It seems like we were going one way and they were going another. They just had a great gameplan and came out and executed it very well."

    With Clemson ahead 21-0, State would respond after a roughing the kicker kept their ensuing drive alive. Tailback Darrell Blackman took over for the Wolfpack on the drive and, after breaking free from the Clemson defensive line, the sophomore went untouched on a 20-yard touchdown run, closing the gap to 21-7.

    Clemson's Davis added his second touchdown on a six-yard run with just under three minutes left in the half, and State picked up a field goal after Blackman returned the kickoff to the Tigers' 20-yard line, bringing the halftime score to 28-10.

    "They ran the ball... they knocked us off the football," Amato said of Clemson's rushing performance in the first half. "With what we do, it is inexcusable to be knocked off the football."

    Clemson kicker Jad Dean missed a 39-yard field goal on the second half's opening drive, but NC State could not capitalize on the miss. After driving to the Clemson 32-yard line, a failed fourth down conversion gave the Tigers back the ball.

    Dean made his next kick, a 30-yard attempt that gave Clemson a 31-10 lead at the end of the third quarter.

    NC State had a chance to get going offensively in the fourth quarter after a Deraney punt pinned the Tigers deep in their own territory, and Garland Heath made an interception at the 24-yard line. But Davis threw an interception, prompting Amato to put backup quarterback Marcus Stone in on the next series.

    "I just felt we had to make a change," Amato said of the move. "The young man deserves it. He deserves that opportunity to get in there."

    However, Stone couldn't get the Wolfpack in the endzone either as his first offensive drive stalled at the Clemson five-yard line on fourth down.

    Stone was solid in limited action, completing 4-of-5 passes for 42 yards while Davis completed 15-of-31 passes for 131 yards and an interception.

    Blackman rushed for 46 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown while freshman Toney Baker added 42 yards on 12 carries. Stone also rushed for 18 yards on two attempts for the Wolfpack. Once again, NC State was unable to establish a consistent running game for an entire contest.

    "We had the run game going, and then I don't know exactly what happened," quarterback Jay Davis said.

    The lone bright spot for NC State's offense may have been wide receiver Lamart Barrett. The junior from Miami, Florida had four receptions for 78 yards and a couple of acrobatic catches. Brian Clark added three catches for 40 yards.

    Defensively NC State was paced by junior Stephen Tulloch. With fellow linebacker Oliver Hoyte missing a considerable amount of snaps due to a sprained ankle, Tulloch recorded 14 tackles, a pass breakup, and a quarterback hurry. Junior defensive tackle John McCargo added four tackles for loss while Hoyte still managed to register nine tackles.

    NC State (2-3, 1-3) has now lost six straight ACC home games, dating back to last season's contest against Wake Forest.

    "They are so hurt that they haven't been able to win a game in this stadium against an ACC team since last year's Wake Forest game," Amato said. "They are so focused on the fact that they want to win the 150th game in this stadium and in the last two games we haven't been able to do that."

    The Wolfpack must now regroup and face a Wake Forest team in Winston-Salem that has been playing much better lately.

    "I've still got faith in my team, I still trust my teammates and hopefully everybody still trusts each other," Blackman said. "We've just got to work together and stay on the same page."

    "We've got six more games left and we're going to take them one at a time," Amato said. "They won't quit. These kids aren't going to quit. They really won't."

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