Notebook: Pack Heads to Death Valley

NC State (3-6, 2-4) hits the road in need of a conference win.

  • NC State used a different starting five for the first time all season on the offensive line. Meares Green (RT) and Luke Lathan (C) started for the first time in 2006, with Leroy Harris moving from starting center to starting left guard.
  • All six of the Wolfpack's conference games have been decided by eight points or less this season.
  • Darrell Blackman is second in the ACC in kick returns (eighth nationally) and fourth in the ACC in punt returns (26th nationally). He ranks first in kick returns and second in punt returns in ACC games only.

    NC State and Clemson have met 74 times on the gridiron since the series began in 1899, the third oldest ACC series for the Wolfpack. The Tigers hold a 46-27-1 advantage all-time and a 19- 11 mark in Clemson.

    Clemson leads 4-6 over the last 10 meetings overall and Tommy Bowden is 4-2 over Chuck Amato in the series. Amato has a 1-2 mark at Clemson, including a 38-6 win in 2002, the second largest margin of victory in an ACC game for the Wolfpack under Amato (a 55-31 win at Duke in 2001 and a 24-0 win against Virginia were the largest). The two losses in Death Valley were both decided by a touchdown or less, a 20-26 defeat in 2004 and a 27-34 loss in 2000.

    Over the last 10 meetings in Death Valley, the Tigers hold a 6-4 edge in the series, winning by an average of 15.8 points in six games and the Wolfpack winning by an average of 12 points in the four wins.

    Although not many of the players in uniform know about it, for the past 26 years (since 1981), the series between NC State and Clemson has been dubbed the Textile Bowl, as that industry has such a major economic impact on both states and both schools boast renowned textile colleges. The North Carolina textile manufacturers donate money to NCState's scholarship fund every year in honor of the Wolfpack's MVP from the game.

    Clemson posts a 16-9 advantage in the Textile Bowl.

    Wolfpack head coach Chuck Amato spent 18 years coaching under Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden's father, Bobby, at Florida State. For 14 of those seasons, Amato served as the elder Bowden's assistant head coach. Amato and TommyBowden actually spent one season on the same staff at Florida State, as Bowden coached tight ends in 1982 while Amato was the defensive line coach.

    All six of the Wolfpack's conference games this season have been decided by eight points or less and three by four points or less.

    In Chuck Amato's 54 ACC contests, he has posted a 25-29 record. In 31 of those 54 games, the final outcome has been decided by a touchdown (seven points) or less, 36 have been decided by eight points or less and 40 have been decided by 10 points or less. Amato is 11-15 on the road in ACC matchups and in 16 of those 26 games the score has differed by seven points or less, with NC State posting a 6-10 record in those games after a six point loss to Maryland and a seven point loss to Virginia over the last two roads ACC games this season.

    His ACC record includes a 14-14 mark at home and the Wolfpack has lost just four conference games by double digits at home in the past seven years. In 14 home ACC wins, six have been by double digits, and the other eight have been by seven or less points, including the two-point win over BC and the fourpoint triumph over FSU.

    Under Amato, NC State has lost by 20-or-more points just three times and by more than 10 points just seven times in ACC games.

    The Wolfpack defense has consistently stopped opponents on third down this season and currently is second in the league and ranks 11th nationally in opponents third down conversion percentage. NC State is holding opponents to a 30.2% conversion rate on third downs and has allowed only 38 conversions on third down, second best in the conference.

    A bright spot during the four-game losing streak has been the increase in total yards since Daniel Evans took over at quarterback for his first career start against Boston College. NC State has averaged 318.5 total offensive yards-per-game over the last six games, all against league foes. That mark ranks fifth in conference games only.

    For the season, the team is still seventh in the ACC in total offense at 301.9 yards-per-game after averaging just 268.7 yards-per-game in the first three games of the season before Evans took over under center.

    NC State is 1-3 when outgaining its opponents this season, with the three losses to Wake Forest, Maryland and Virginia and a win against Appalachian St.

    Junior return specialist and wide receiver Darrell Blackman injured his knee on the opening kickoff of the Southen Miss game and missed the remainder of that contest and the Boston College game. Since his return from injury, Blackman has been a valuable piece of the Wolfpack's offensive unit, and his play on special teams is just that - special. He is the only player in the ACC that ranks in the top five in the league in both punt returns and kick returns and the only one to return both a punt and kickoff for a touchdown this season. Blackman is second in the conference in kickoff returns and eighth nationally, averaging 31.1 yards per return. His punt return mark (10.7) is fourth in the ACC and ranks 26th in the NCAA.

    He is even better against conference foes, leading the league in kickoff returns (33.4) and placing second in punt returns (11.8).

    Blackman is the Wolfpack's career leader in kickoff return average at 29.5 and is fourth in yards with 1,031.

    Darrell Blackman collected a careerhigh 234 all-purpose yards in the Georgia Tech contest, the eighth-best single game total in school history. Those yards included a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the seventh longest kick return in school history and the 11th longest overall play. He currently leads the ACC in conference games only with an average of 135.6 all-purpose yards-per-game and ranks third overall at 118 yards-per-game, 34th nationally.

    Blackman currently ranks 15th in school history with 2,526 career all-purpose yards and needs just 56 yards to become the first Wolfpack player with back-to-back 1,000 all-purpose yard seasons since Jerricho Cotchery (2002 and 2003). Blackman is also on pace to post a top-10 season in terms of all-purpose yards.

    The team has had its struggles in the red zone this season on both sides of the ball. In the first four games of the season, NC State made just seven trips into the red zone and scored five times (four TDs, one FG). The defense had allowed 14 scores (nine TDs, five FGs) in 16 chances inside the 20-yardline.

    Those numbers have improved in the last five games, each against ACC foes, as the offense has more than doubled its production in the red zone while the defense has allowed fewer trips and touchdowns.

    NC State has made more trips inside the red zone than its opponents in only three of the nine games this season, against Florida State (5-to-3), Wake Forest (4-to-1) and Georgia Tech (3-to-2), posting a 1-2 record. In its six ACC games, NC State has scored on 15 of its 17 (88.2%) red zone trips, fifth in the conference.

    NC State will play two of its final three games on the road and is 0-3 in road contests this season. The Pack has lost two of the three games by a touchdown or less.

    Overall, NC State is playing four of its final six games on the road after hosting five of its first six games at home. The last time NC State played four of its final six games on the road was 1995 when the Wolfpack posted a 2-4 record to finish the season.

    NC State played five of its first six games at home this season and posted a 3-3 mark. The last time the Pack was fortunate enough to begin the season with so many home contests was in 1998, when NC State also played five of the first six at home en route to a 4-2 start. That same season was also the last time NC State opened its ACC schedule with three straight at home, (NC State's 2006 conference slate opened with Boston College, Florida State and Wake Forest all visiting Carter-Finley). This season marked the seventh straight that Amato opened the season at home.

    For the first time all season, NC State had a different starting lineup along its offensive line. Luke Lathan started at center and Meares Green started at tackle, with Leroy Harris moving over to guard after starting the first eight games at center.

    It was Green's first career-start and Lathan's fifth career start, though he hadn't started a contest since 2004.

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