The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 23rd-ranked NC State Wolfpack are newcomers to the national poll, and they will do battle with the Clemson Tigers this weekend in ACC action.
NC State was last in action on Thursday, October 28th, when it knocked off Florida State by a 28-24 final in front of the home crowd. The Wolfpack are now 6-2 overall, including 3-1 versus ACC competition, and they are obviously very much a factor in the wide open race for the conference crown.
"We have to get our heads out of the clouds and our feet on the ground," said NC State head coach Tom O'Brien after the win over FSU. "We have another big game in Clemson."
Speaking of the Tigers, they are a mediocre 4-4 overall and a disappointing 2-3 in league games, but they have won four of their five home games to date. Last weekend, Clemson had a modest two-game win streak snapped with a 16-10 loss to Boston College. All four losses this season have come by single digits, including a three-point loss to national powerhouse Auburn in overtime on the road.
"It's pretty disappointing," said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. "We had some great opportunities, but did not capitalize on them. Hopefully, we learn from it and grow from this."
Clemson owns a 50-27-1 series lead over NC State, which includes six straight wins over the Wolfpack.
Through eight games, NC State is scoring 35.0 ppg while surrendering 438.6 total ypg. The team's quarterback, Russell Wilson, is a dynamic playmaker who gives the Wolfpack a chance to win every time out. Wilson has completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 2,302 yards and 19 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. As a runner, he has reached the end zone five times to lead the club in that category as well. NC State lacks a star at the wide receiver position, but Wilson has done a tremendous job of spreading the ball around.
Against Florida State last time out, Wilson ran for three scores and threw for another to lead his team to victory. The touchdown pass came with just 2:40 remaining in the contest, as the standout signal caller drove his team 70 yards in 13 plays to produce the game-winning score. One of the most impressive stats from that tilt is that the Wolfpack finished 12-of-18 on third-down conversion attempts.
"This is definitely the biggest win we have had since I've been here," said Wilson after the contest. "So far."
Opponents are posting 23.8 ppg against NC State, which is permitting 353.2 total ypg. There is room for improvement against both the run and the pass, as the Wolfpack are yielding 4.4 yards per rushing attempt and 12.6 yards per pass completion. On a positive note, they have claimed 19 takeaways, including 12 fumble recoveries, and have registered 24 sacks. Nate Irving leads NCSU with 59 total tackles, including 10.5 TFLs.
While NC State was far from dominant defensively against Florida State, the squad clearly played well enough to win. The Wolfpack allowed 373 total yards and enabled FSU to reach the red zone five times. Fortunately, they were able to turn the Seminoles away scoreless on one of those five trips, and that was a key to victory in the tightly-played affair.
It appears that the Clemson offense will be without tailback Andre Ellington this week, as he will sit out to nurse a toe injury. Ellington has rushed for 686 yards and 10 touchdowns, and he is the best player on offense for the Tigers. Obviously, added pressure will fall on quarterback Kyle Parker and his pedestrian group of receivers. Parker has completed a modest 53 percent of his passes for 1,315 yards and eight touchdowns against six interceptions, numbers that aren't going to scare NC State. The Tigers are generating 342.4 total ypg while scoring 27.8 ppg.
Defensively, the Tigers are yielding only 18.1 ppg and 347.0 total ypg. They have been particularly strong against the run, yielding 3.9 yards per carry. While some big plays have been permitted through the air, Clemson has come up with 12 interceptions. The player to watch for the Tigers is Da'Quan Bowers, who has already posted 18.5 TFLs, including 11 sacks. The defensive lineman is third on the team with 48 total tackles.
The only touchdown scored by Clemson last week was registered by Rashard Hall, who returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown. The defense was strong, limiting Boston College to 304 total yards on 3.7 yards per rushing attempt. Unfortunately, the Clemson offense didn't play well, posting just 262 total yards. Ellington only carried the ball 14 times before leaving with the injury, and Parker was intercepted twice.