"Bull's Eye" on Undefeated Tigers Continues to Grow


by - Correspondent -
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<font class=caption>The Wolfpack will have 16 days to prepare for Woody and the Tigers.</font>
The Wolfpack will have 16 days to prepare for Woody and the Tigers.

CLEMSON - What a difference a year can make.

In that short timespan, Clemson has gone from the hunter to the hunted.

With a No. 5 ranking in both the Associated Press Poll and the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll, the Tigers find themselves with a huge bull's eye implanted on their collective chest. And with N.C. State coming to Death Valley Saturday (3:30 p.m., ABC Television) for a mid-season battle between two undefeated Atlantic Coast Conference teams, that bull's eye just got a little bigger.

"(The bull's eye) is huge. It's well off our chest it's so big now," said offensive lineman Will Merritt at Tuesday's weekly football press conference. "People are gunning for us now, and they're going to give us their best shot. The good thing is that we realize that. We're going to have to bring our A-game every week if we want to be successful."

Clemson (5-0, 3-0 ACC) will definitely need its A-game on Saturday.

The Wolfpack (4-0, 1-0 ACC) will roll into Memorial Stadium boasting the nation's No. 2-rated pass offense and the premier true-freshman quarterback in the country in Philip Rivers. State has defeated Clemson in each of the last two meetings, including last year's controversial 35-31 decision in Raleigh.

But with Clemson's newfound success comes a newfound attitude.

"Last year, we were the ones breaking into people's homes. This year, we're trying to beat them with a bat when the burglar comes in," said Merritt. "It's a whole different attitude. It's fun to know that you've got something everybody wants, and you don't want them to have it. We're defending something now."

But N.C. State holds a trump card.


PRESS CONFERENCE AUDIO
Tommy Bowden Press Conference (30:00) Keith Adams on facing a good NCSU offense and last week's mistakes on defense. Freddie James on making a name for himself on the defensive line. Will Merritt on coming back to Death Valley to play. TE Morgan Woodward on being tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions. Terry Bowden on the Bowdens, Alabama job, Woody, and more.

The Wolfpack hasn't played since beating Georgia Tech two weeks ago. By the time the two teams line up against one another on Saturday, State will have had a full 16 days to prepare for the Tigers. And with the 'Pack's much-ballyhooed new coaching staff having that much preparation time, CU coach Tommy Bowden is uneasy - and rightly so.

"The amount of time they have had to prepare for us is definitely a concern," he said. "I would not be surprised if they are able to drive the ball pretty well on the first couple of possessions until we have a chance to adjust to what they are doing. I also would not be surprised if they are able to slow us down (offensively) early in the game until we can make adjustments to what they are doing defensively.

"They have a very experienced coaching staff and I know they will take full advantage of the time leading up to the game."


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