Observations From the Game: Clemson

Pack Pride takes a look back at the highs and lows from NC State's contest with Clemson.

NC State had hoped to build on last week's win over Wofford but was completely overmatched Saturday against the Clemson Tigers. The Tigers dominated on both sides of the ball in a 42-20 shellacking of the Wolfpack. Pack Pride takes a look back at the game.

Rushing attack non-existent- One of the keys for NC State on Saturday was their ability to mount some sort of rushing attack versus Clemson. The Tigers entered the game giving up roughly 175 yards per contest and appeared somewhat vulnerable. However, State was thoroughly dominated at the point of attack and the Pack running backs had virtually no lanes to run the ball. On the day State rushed for a measly 55 yards and averaged just 2.4 yards per carry.

First down woes continue- First down has been an achilles heel for State all season and that was the case yet again on Saturday. On 17 first down runs, NC State rushed for three or less yards on nine of those. Of the seven first down passes, two were interceptions, one was an incompletion and another was completed for -2 yards. Of 12 third down plays, 10 of those were considered third and long. As has been mentioned all year, down and distance makes you extremely predictable on third down and NC State doesn't appear to have a QB that can consistently dig State out of their long yardage woes.

Special teams improving- For the first time this year, NC State unveiled a spread punt formation and it was successful. While the Pack's 36.5 yard per punt average isn't necessarily great, Clemson managed just 5.5 yards per punt return which showed State did a solid job in punt coverage.

The same was true on kickoffs. State surrendered just 20.5 yards per kickoff return. PK Steven Hauschka got good elevation and depth on his kicks all day and his play has been one of the few bright spots for the Pack all year.

Darrell Blackman continued to show why he's one of the nation's most dangerous special team's players by breaking a school record with his 99-yard kickoff return for a score. The Pack finished with a solid 30 yard kickoff return average and respectable nine yards return average on punts.

Penalties not a major factor- Penalties were a huge problem for NC State over the last several years but that aspect has been kept in check for the most part thus far in 2007. On Saturday, the Pack had just four penalties for 26 yards. Two were costly, however. The Pack was offsides late in the first half which resulted in a field goal for Clemson and a late hit out of bounds sustained a Tiger's drive that would ultimately result in a touchdown.

How did that happen?- On Clemson's first touchdown, CJ Spiller caught a short pass out in the flat and took it 11 yards for the score. Whether by design or mistake, NC State's DE Audi Augustin ended up trying to cover Spiller and that was a mismatch that the Pack could never win.

Defense couldn't get off the field- In the second half, the NC State defense had numerous opportunities to get off the field but could find no one to make a critical play to stop Clemson's drives. On a third and six, Clemson completed a pass for 25 yards. Result- field goal. On a third and eight, pass completion for 19 yards. On a fourth and one, James Davis rushes for 12 yards. On a third and nine, pass completion for nine yards and a first down. On a third and eight, personal foul on NC State for a first down. Result- touchdown. In all, Clemson converted on nine of 18 third downs with 13 of those being third and longs.

Offense added to defensive woes- The NC State offense didn't do the defense any favors as Clemson ran 89 offensive plays to the Pack's 57. As a result, the Tigers dominated time of possession by holding the ball nearly 37 minutes to State's paltry 23 minutes.

Home field disadvantage?- Going back to 2004, NC State is just 6-13 against D-1 opponents in Carter-Finley stadium.

Mike Glennon- Offenses with dominant offensive lines and successful rushing attacks can get away with having an average QB by simply asking him to go out and be the caretaker of the offense. Offenses that don't have that luxury need a playmaking quarterback to make up the difference. Unfortunately, NC State has not had a consistent playmaker at QB since the departure of Philip Rivers. Many inside the Wolfpack program believe Glennon has the talent and skills to be the catalyst to get NC State's offense off the ground again. While it is certainly unfair to label a high school senior as the savior for a college offense, getting Glennon to NC State seems to take on more importance every week.

Glimmer of hope for the defensive line- NC State's rush defense has been suspect at best thus far in 2007. Perhaps that's predictable when you consider who is making the lion's share of the plays. With just two years or less of playing experience under their belts- Markus Kuhn, Alan-Michael Cash, Antoine Holmes and Ted Larsen combined for 17 tackles, 2 ½ tackles for loss, one sack and three pass breakups against Clemson. The fact that State's young defensive linemen are having to make so may plays is likely part of the rush defense woes. There's no substitute for experience, size, strength and quickness- especially at a position like the DL. With time, this group will gain those attributes but it won't happen overnight. It does give a reason to be excited about the future, however.

25 point glass ceiling- The Wolfpack offense has struggled mightily and seems to find the 25 point barrier unbreakable. Since the final game of 2004, NC State has scored fewer than 25 points against every single division one opponent. During that stretch, the Pack is a combined 8-17.


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