GAMEDAY: NC State vs. Clemson

NC State (4-5) faces Clemson (6-3) today in a huge game for both teams. Kickoff is set for 12:00, and the game will be televised on Raycom.

NC State (4-5) vs. Clemson (6-3)
Saturday, November 14, 2009
12:00 pm (EST), Raycom
Raleigh, NC
Carter-Finley Stadium

NC State Links
Official Site

Clemson Links
Game Notes

CFN's Take

Clemson (6-3) at NC State (4-5),12:00 EST, Saturday, November 14

Why to watch: Georgia Tech is the hottest team in the ACC. Clemson is just a few degrees cooler. The Tigers have rebounded from back-to-back losses a month ago, winning four in-a-row to take control of the Atlantic Division and breaking into the Top 25. Saturday night's come-from-behind win over Florida State was the best evidence yet that this Tiger team isn't like the last few editions that raised expectations before failing to reach the bar. It took over a month and some frustrating moments, but NC State has finally stopped the hemorrhaging associated with a four-game losing streak. The Wolfpack got past Maryland last weekend to remain alive for bowl eligibility, but with Virginia Tech and North Carolina still to come, it'll need to deliver an upset this weekend.

Why Clemson might win: Everything appears to be clicking in Death Valley these days. The defense has been fantastic, RB C.J. Spiller is excelling through pain, and QB Kyle Parker has thrown seven touchdown passes in recent games with Florida State and Miami. The Tigers' biggest edge will occur when they have the ball, feasting on a Wolfpack defense that's running out of healthy bodies and has been beaten for at least 30 points in each of the last six games. The playmaking ability of Spiller, backup RB Andre Ellington, and WR Jacoby Ford will be too much for a State D operating on fumes.

Why NC State might win: You really never know what you're going to get from the Clemson program, especially on the road. The Tigers are 1-2 away from home, losing to lowly Maryland a month ago. The Pack's hopes, as usual, rest on the right arm of QB Russell Wilson. Although he's regressed a bit in his sophomore year, he's still a dangerous distributor, who can also tuck it and run. No. 2 in the ACC in total offense, he has three reliable targets in TE George Bryan and receivers Owen Spencer and Jarvis Williams. The NC State offense has been held in check just twice all season, averaging more than 33 points a game.

Who to watch: This is going to be Wilson's toughest test of the year. Clemson has a terrific secondary that's picked off 11 passes in the last four games alone and is the reason the school is No. 6 nationally in pass defense. Safeties DeAndre McDaniel and Rashard Hall have combined for 13 interceptions, and corners Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor are two of the best in the league. If Wilson is going to engineer something special, he'll have to be very careful with his reads.

What will happen: This is a bad match up for NC State. Yeah, Clemson can make you look silly when you least expect it, but not this weekend. The Tigers ability to blanket receivers and pressure the passer will neutralize State's only chance for the upset. With a handful of short-field opportunities, courtesy of turnovers and special teams, Spiller, Parker, and the offense will punch it in to get the winning streak to five games.

CFN Prediction: Clemson 35 … NC State 21 ... Line: Clemson -7

Must See Rating: (The Legend of Jimmy the Greek 5 … 2012 1) … 2.5

Game Keys

NC State Offense vs. Clemson Defense

Clemson's front seven just might be the toughest NC State faces this season. Loaded with athleticism and experience, the Tigers feature several players who can create havoc for opposing offenses. Clemson is currently No. 24 nationally in sacks per game, averaging 2.67 to lead the ACC.

Led by defensive ends Ricky Sapp and Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson loves to apply pressure with their front four, an extremely talented group. Five other defensive linemen have recorded sacks for the Tigers, showing they have the depth needed to rush the passer all game.

While Clemson's front four is talented, they will bring blitzers from different angles early and often. Linebackers Corico Hawkins and Brandon Maye each have two sacks, and amazingly three defensive backs also have recorded sacks for the Tigers.

NC State's offensive line has played much better recently, particularly pass blocking, and they need to have another big game if the Wolfpack is going to move the football successfully against Clemson's stellar defense.

State will have back starting left tackle Jake Vermiglio, who missed the Maryland game with an illness, and that allows the Pack to possibly get Andrew Wallace some reps at right guard with Andy Barbee.

Can they hold up against Clemson's relentless pressure is the big question because protecting redshirt sophomore quarterback Russell Wilson is critical. He's had a standout season and has the weapons around him to exploit Clemson's man-to-man coverage if given the time to do so.

NC State is a touchdown underdog, and realistically, no one expects them to win this game. For them to have a shot against Clemson, the Wolfpack has to establish the running game behind Toney Baker, Jamelle Eugene, and Russell Wilson.

Through nine games, Clemson's defense is really strong. The Tigers are No. 13 in total defense, allowing just 290 yards per game, but are No. 53 in rushing defense as they have yielded an average of 131 yards per game on the ground.

In Clemson's three road games, they've given up a whopping 547 yards on the ground, an average of 183 per game. Yes, one of those games was at Georgia Tech, who runs on everyone, but Miami also churned out 177 yards against the Tiger defense. Overall, Clemson's defense has been less relentless on the road so that is a plus for the Wolfpack who is playing at home.

NC State had a similar gameplan in 2006 when they headed down to Death Valley as heavy underdogs. Then a sophomore, tailback Toney Baker had a career day, rushing for 174 yards on 34 carries, but it wasn't enough as State lost 20-14. The Pack won the time of possession battle and was inches away from stealing a win after Lamart Barrett's right foot landed out of bounds near the Clemson endzone as he hauled in what appeared to be a game-winning 38-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Daniel Evans with 15 seconds left.

The key might be Baker. His physical running style has paid dividends this year as he's having a strong senior campaign. Baker has rushed for 588 yards (5.2 YPC) and six scores and has added another three touchdowns receiving. Don't be surprised if NC State tries to get him and Eugene going early.

NC State has to be succcessful running the football. Doing so will keep the Pack's thin defensive unit and Clemson's high-powered offense on the sidelines.

It is vital for NC State that they win the turnover battle. The Pack has had problems recently with turnovers and has had problems all year forcing turnovers so turnover margin might tell the difference in the game.

The offense can't put the defense in tough situations in terms of field position, and there should be no turnovers which yield instant points for the Tigers.

The formula for NC State's offense is simple: control the clock, pound Clemson on the ground, limit turnovers, and be efficient in the passing game. When the opportunities are there, NC State has to capitalize with the long pass.

This falls on Wilson. Having arguably the best season of any quarterback in the ACC, Wilson has a ton of confidence in his receivers and will look to get them the ball vertically as much as possible. With Clemson playing a lot of man coverage, chances will be there for the offense to make big plays, but they can't have bad turnovers.

Clemson is sixth nationally in pass defense and is among the nation's leaders in interceptions. If Wilson can make it out of this game without throwing an interception, NC State has a chance to spring the upset.

NC State Defense vs. Clemson Offense

In a nutshell, NC State has to reverse the results over the last five seasons. The Pack has dropped five straight to the Tigers and you have to go back to 2003 and the days of Philip Rivers for the last Wolfpack victory in this series. Clemson has owned State, scoring nearly 30 points per game during this stretch. With the Tigers averaging roughly 32 points a contest in 2009, the Wolfpack defense has a daunting task ahead.

For the Wolfpack, the keys on defense will be the same as they've been for the last several weeks. Unfortunately for State, the Pack's apparent weakness on defense is the strength for Clemson's offense. The Wolfpack has been extremely vulnerable on the edge due to inconsistent tackling and slow reaction to get out in space. This is exactly the area of the field the Tigers like to exploit. Clemson loves to make plays on offense outside the tackle box, using a variety of misdirection plays and motion.

C.J. Spiller may be the nation's most explosive athlete, boasting tremendous speed and acceleration. He has not been as effective between the tackles which means State can expect a variety of formations and plays designed to get him matched up against Wolfpack defenders one on one out on the perimeter.

The Pack will likely employ the same zone defense they've used for most of the year which will try to keep Spiller in front of them and prevent giving up the big play. This means State has to swarm to the ball and not assume one player can bring Spiller to the ground. When they get there they have to tackle well. Spiller and Jacoby Ford have the ability to make defenders look foolish and if State isn't prepared, those two have the talent to make a highlight reel out of this contest.

State's front four has been quiet over the last several games for the most part. Against Florida State, Clemson freshman QB Kyle Parker seemed to struggle at times with throws into the Seminole's zone defense. If the Pack can get a solid rush on Parker and make him force some throws then the potential may be there for an interception. The Tigers have given up 16 sacks this year which isn't terrible but shows they can be beat. If State hopes to have any chance, they absolutely cannot allow Parker to sit in the pocket and pick them apart.

NC State is ranked 108th in the nation in turnover margin but you have to believe at some point, the Pack is due to get some. Realistically, if State is to have any shot against Clemson then they have to win this battle on Saturday.

Clemson has played nine games this year and turned the ball over 19 times. However, eight of those turnovers have occurred in the Tiger's three road games. During those three contests, Clemson is 1-2. With that in mind it's obvious that turnovers can be the great equalizer for a Wolfpack defense that has given up just shy of 40 points a game over the last six contests.

Again, this boils down to NC State playing aggressive on defense while making a concerted effort to tackle the ball while also being disruptive in the Clemson backfield and forcing Parker into errant throws.

Kickoffs and punts are going to be a huge test for NC State all day against Clemson. The Pack typically kicks the ball down around the five yard line on kickoffs. Spiller is averaging 35 yards per kickoff return so hypothetically, Clemson could be looking at average starting field position around the 40. State simply cannot afford to let the Tigers begin each drive with that kind of starting position. Not only do the Wolfpack defenders have to make sure they tackle well to prevent a touchdown, they have to do a better job of getting down the field and engaging the return man more quickly than what they've done so far this year.

This may mean that State has to look at squib or sky kicks to try to prevent the big play. At the same time, they can't put the Wolfpack's backs against the wall all day by yielding field position.

Clemson Game Notes

Clemson invades Carter-Finley Stadium Saturday on a four-game winning streak led in large part by an explosive offense that has averaged better than 40 points per game during that stretch. The Tigers are led by Heisman hopeful C.J. Spiller who is currently fourth in the nation in all-purpose yards. As well as the Clemson offense has been playing of late, the Tiger defense has been equally impressive. That unit is currently rated 13th nationally in total defense, giving up close to 290 yards per contest. Pack Pride takes an in-depth look at the Wolfpack’s next opponent.

Record 6-3

Clemson National Statistical Rankings

Rushing offense...51

Passing offense..79

Total offense...73

Scoring offense...25

Rushing defense...53

Passing defense...6

Total defense...13

Look back at Clemson’s last game from 

at Clemson 40 … Florida State 24

It was the C.J. Spiller show as the Tiger running back took a pass 58 yards for a score and ran for a five-yard touchdown as Clemson dominated the second half. Florida State got up 17-6 in the first quarter helped by a 49-yard Lonnie Pryor touchdown catch and a 52-yard Jamie Robinson interception return for a score, but Kyle Parker was able to get the Tigers back into the game with a 43-yard pass to Xavier Dye to spark a 34-7 run. Kyle Parker threw four touchdown passes on the day and Clemson picked off four Christian Ponder passes, but Clemson didn’t pull away until late in the fourth with a two-yard Durrell Berry touchdown catch.

Player of the Game: Clemson RB C.J. Spiller ran 22 times for 165 yards, caught three passes for 67 yards and a score, returned three kickoffs for 71 yards, and returned a punt for nine yards.

Florida State: Passing: Christian Ponder, 21-33, 264 yds, 1 TD, 4 INT

Rushing: Jermaine Thomas, 26-119, Receiving: Rod Owens, 9-77

Clemson: Passing: Kyle Parker, 18-30, 242 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: C.J. Spiller, 22-165, 1 TD, Receiving: Xavier Dye, 3-68, 1 TD

What It All Means: For all the problems Florida State has had, at least the passing game was clicking. Against Clemson, Jermaine Thomas and the running game were fine, but Christian Ponder finally had a dud of a performance throwing four interceptions in an attempt to keep up the pace. With all the problems with the coaching staff and defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, it wasn’t a good enough game from the Seminole D to show that things could be turned around. C.J. Spiller was busy doing whatever he wanted to with big play after big play, while Kyle Parker threw too well on the beleaguered FSU secondary. Now it’s going to take wins over Wake Forest and Maryland just to get to a bowl game. Forget about hanging around with Florida in the regular season finale.

Clemson Game Notes

Clemson Back in AP Top 25

Tigers Now 24th in Both Football and Men’s Basketball

Clemson returned to the Associated Press Top 25 college football poll on November 8 with a number-24 national ranking. It is the first time Clemson has been in the top 25 of the AP poll since September 21, 2008 when the Tigers were ranked 20th after a 3-1 start. Clemson has moved into the rankings after winning four consecutive games. The Tigers have defeated Wake Forest (38-3), Miami (FL) (40-34 in overtime), Coastal Carolina (49-3) and Florida State (40-24). This is Clemson’s longest winning streak since taking four in a row between October 20 and November of 2007. That is also the last time Clemson finished the season in the AP Top 25. Clemson has achieved the winning streak by scoring at least 38 points in four straight games, a first in the program’s history. Clemson also holds down the same #24 national ranking in men’s basketball according to the AP men’s basketball poll. The Tigers men’s basketball team opens play Friday night against Presbyterian.

Clemson is one of four schools nationally to currently rank in the top 25 of both the AP football and men’s basketball polls. The others are Texas, Ohio State and Georgia Tech.

Tigers Have Won Four in a Row

Clemson has won four consecutive games, the longest winning streak for the program in the short tenure of Dabo Swinney and the longest streak overall since the Tigers won four in a row in 2007. If Clemson gains victory on Saturday at NC State, the five-game winning streak would be the longest for the program since a six game winning streak early in the 2006 season. A big improvement on offense has had a lot to do with Clemson’s four-game winning streak. The Tigers have scored at least 38 points in four straight games and that is a first for the program’s long history. Over the last four games, Clemson has averaged 42 points per game, 419 yards per game, 6.56 yards per play and 226 passing yards a game. Clemson has seen its rushing average improve from 135.2 yards a game over the first five games to 193.3 for the last four.

Spiller Has Played Well vs. NC State

C.J. Spiller has played some of his best football against NC State over his career and his performance is a big reason the Tigers are 3-0 against the Wolfpack since he has been at Clemson. In his three games against NC State, Spiller has gained 479 all-purpose yards, including 49 rushes for 339 yards, a 6.9 average and three touchdowns. Entering this year, his 339 yards rushing were his high against any opponent. Spiller has eight career receptions for 70 yards and two scores against NC State. He has three career kickoff returns for 66 yards against the Pack. He has scored a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown against the Pack each of the last two years. As a freshman in 2006, Spiller had 154 yards rushing on 18 careers, the third highest rushing yardage total of his career. As a sophomore at NC State, he had 21-114 yards rushing and a touchdown and had three catches for 34 yards and a score. Then last year he had 10-61 rushing and added 4-35 receiving and another 25 on one kickoff return. Only one Clemson player has had three career 100-yard rushing games against the same opponent. That was Kenny Flowers against Duke between 1983-85. So, a 100-yard rushing game by Spiller at NC State on Saturday would tie that record.

Clemson Tied for National Lead in Interceptions

One of the strengths of the Clemson team entering the season was pass defense and that aspect of the game has been a positive this year. Clemson has 19 interceptions so far this year, tied for the national lead with Iowa. The Tigers had four interceptions this past week against Florida State and quarterback Christian Ponder, who had just three interceptions all year entering the game. This week they will face NC State’s Russell Wilson, who owns the NCAA record for consecutive pass attempts without an interception.

Ohio State and Texas are tied for second with 16 picks apiece, while SMU and Texas have 15 apiece to tie for fifth. Clemson’s starting secondary has a combined 31 career interceptions, most in the nation among starting defensive back units. That does not include Rashard Hall’s five interceptions off the bench. DeAndre McDaniel and Crezdon Butler both have 11 and Chris Chancellor has nine career interceptions.

The Harbison Effect

Clemson has 19 interceptions so far this year. It is certainly a possibility that the Tigers could reach the school record of 25 by the end of the season. That is one of the oldest records on the Clemson books, as it is held by the 1951 Clemson team. That team had 361 interception return yards, second to last year’s record 368. So far this year Clemson has 19 interceptions as a team for 327 yards and touchdown. This interception total is certainly a positive reflection of the work of secondary coach Charlie Harbison who is also co-defensive coordinator. Harbison is in his first year at Clemson the second time around. He also coached the Clemson defensive backs from 1995-97. It is interesting to note that in the first year in his first tour of duty. Clemson had 22 interceptions, the fourth highest total in school history. That year Harbison coached a secondary that was led by safety Brian Dawkins, who had an ACC best six interceptions. Dawkins is a seven time NFL Pro Bowler now with the Denver Broncos. This year he is coaching safety DeAndre McDaniel, who has an ACC best eight interceptions. That 1995 team also had future NFL players Lamont Evans, Dexter McCleon and Antwan Edwards.

Tigers Outstanding vs. Top Passers in ACC

Clemson faces Russell Wilson of NC State this weekend, the number-two ranked passer in the ACC who is 16th in the nation in passing efficiency. But, Clemson has done well against the ACC’s top passers this year. Clemson is 3-0 against the other top three quarterbacks in the league it has faced so far. Jacory Harris of Miami, Christian Ponder of Florida State and Riley Skinner of Wake Forest have a combined 3/9 TD/interception ratio against Clemson this year and a combined passing efficiency of 108.9. Their passing efficiency overall for the year is 147.5.

Parker Has Records in Two Sports

Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker is a two-sport athlete at Clemson and a record breaker at that. He came to Clemson in January of 2008 and immediately became a first-team All-ACC baseball player for Jack Leggett’s team. He made first-team All-ACC as a DH in the spring of 2008 when he was supposed to be a senior in high school. On March 9, 2008 he hit three home runs in the second game of a doubleheader against Wake Forest in Winston-Salem to tie the Clemson single game home run record. He joined former Major League player Denny Walling and current Chicago Cub Jeff Baker among the 12 Tigers to do that in one baseball game. This past spring, while also going through spring football practice, he reached 25 career home runs by his 103rd game, the fewest games needed to reach 25 career home runs in Clemson history. He has 26 home runs entering this spring.

He had the game winning hit in the 8th inning of Clemson’s NCAA Regional against Oklahoma State, a hit that sent Clemson to the Super Regionals last year. Now, Parker has established record on the gridiron as weel. When Clemson beat Miami at Miami on October 24 he became the first freshman quarterback to lead Clemson to a win over a top 10 team. It was just the second time a freshman had quarterbacked the Tigers to a win over a top 25 team on the road. He broke three more records and tied another in the win over Florida State. First, he set the record for most wins in a season by a freshman quarterback. He now has six, breaking the previous mark of five set by Rodney Williams in 1985. He also broke Charlie Whitehursts record for touchdown passes in a season by a freshman. Parker now has 14 and Whitehurst had 10. He threw four touchdown passes against the Seminoles to tie Whitehurst’s record in that area. And, he became the Clemson freshman record holder for passing yardage and now has 1665. Whitehurst had that mark also with 1554 in 2002.

Clemson Throwing to the Tight End

Clemson has been throwing to the tight end this year. When Clemson beat Miami (FL) earlier this year, tight ends accounted for nine receptions, the most in a game by players at that position since 1970 when Clemson tight ends also had nine in a game against Florida State. This year against Florida State, three different tight ends caught four passes, including two for touchdowns.

So far this year, Clemson tight ends have caught 38 passes for 369 yards and five scores. That is already the third most receptions for the tight end position over the course of a season in Clemson history and the most since 1971 when Tiger tight ends caught 39 passes for 521 yards and six scores. The record for a season is 46 catches for 582 yards in 1970. Both of those Clemson teams were coached by Hootie Ingram, who later served as Florida State Athletic Director.

Spiller Has 50 Yard Play in Eight Straight Games vs. FBS Teams

Clemson senior running back CJ Spiller had a unique streak going until he played just 15 snaps and touched the ball just five times against Coastal Carolina on Halloween. Spillers had a 60-yard play, either fom scrimmage or on a return, in each of those first seven games Nothing in Clemson history to compares to it and we have to wonder if anyone else has ever done it nationally. Six of the seven plays of at least 60 yards have gone for touchdowns, including his 90-yard kickoff return for a score at Miami on October 24. He has three kickoff returns for scores of over 90 yards, a 77-yard punt return, two pass receptions of at least 60 yards and the 66-yard run against Wake Forest. So he has seven plays of at least 60 yards four different ways. Spiller had two touchdowns of at least 50 yards at Miami. In addition to the kickoff return he had a 56-yard scoring reception and a 48 yard run. He had a 58-yard scoring pass in the win over Florida State, so there is still a streak alive....eight straight games with a play of at least 58 yards against FBS opponents.

Ford Moving Up Reception List

Jacoby Ford is Clemson’s top receiver this year with 37 for 493 yards and four touchdowns. Ford has moved into 11th place on the Clemson career reception list and now has 124 for his career. He is also 12th in reception yardage with 1700. He also has 14 receiving touchdowns for seventh best in Clemson history. His top play as a Tiger took place in the win over Miami when he caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Parker in overtime to win the game in “walkoff” manner.

Seven Sacks for Bamberg Bookends

Clemson had just 14 sacks in 13 games in 2008. It was a goal of Head Coach Dabo Swinney to increase the pressure on the quarterback and so far Kevin Steele’s defense has done that. In the first six games the Tigers had 17 sacks, including five in the win ove Wake Forest. Clemson now has 24 sacks for the year, best in the ACC. Seven of the 24 sacks have been registered by the the “Bamberg Bookends”, defensive ends Da’Quan Bowers and Ricky Sapp. Bowers is a sophomore and Sapp a senior, but both attended the same high school, Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School in Bamberg, SC. Both have three sacks apiece so far this year. Sapp had two sacks and three tackles for loss against Boston College and was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week. He has come back strong this year after suffering a torn ACL in the 10th game of the 2008 season at Virginia. Bowers was Clemson’s top tackler among defensive linemen last year with 52 and ranks fifth in tackles this year with 36. He had a career high tying three tackles for loss against Wake Forest. The Bamberg Bookends have combined for 17 tackles for loss in the first five games.

Clemson Pass Defense In Top 15 in the Nation

Clemson has had an outstanding pass defense so far this year. Clemson held both Georgia Tech, Boston College to under 30 percent completion percentage in consecutive games on September 10 and September 19. In the 31 years prior to this season, Clemson had done that just eight times. The Tigers held Wake Forest to team efficiency rating of 62.1. Clemson ranks 13th in the nation in pass efficiency defense so far this year and is 6th in pass defense (yardage allowed). Clemson opponents have completed just 51 percent of its passes. The Clemson secondary includes veterans Chris Chancellor, Crezdon Butler, and DeAndre McDaniel, who have a combined 31 career interceptions. Butler has 11, McDaniel has 11 and Chancellor has nine. Clemson has three of the top four active pass interceptors in the ACC among active players. Clemson held Boston College receiver Rich Gunnell without a reception when the teams met on September 19. Gunnell entered the game with 131 career receptions, more than any other active ACC player.

Entire Clemson Game Notes

Thanks to NC State and Clemson Athletics for much of the information in this preview.

Pack Pride Top Stories