Defense dominant as Tigers nip Wolfpack

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CLEMSON – Offensive coordinator Billy Napier asked defensive coordinator Kevin Steele on Friday how many points the offense would need to score in order to beat N.C. State, and Steele answered that he thought his defense could hold the high-flying Wolfpack to 17 points.

The Clemson defense exceeded even Steele’s expectations, holding N.C. State to just 275 yards of total offense and 13 points, the offense finally executed late and the Tigers (5-4 overall, 3-3 ACC) held on for a 14-13 win over the 25th-ranked Wolfpack (6-3, 3-2) in front of 74,000 chilled fans in Death Valley Saturday afternoon.

Pack quarterback Russell Wilson, who entered the contest averaging 295 yards per game through the air, was held to 22-for-36 passing for 212 yards, was intercepted once and sacked four times.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney gave credit to the defense in his postgame press conference.

“They got off to a bad start, but they never quit or backed down” Swinney said. “I gave them game balls for their play. For them to hold N.C. State to 275 yards speaks volumes for our defense. They had a great performance today, and it was only fitting that they got to finish the game ending N.C. State’s last chance to score.

“This was a great win for the team. All the credit goes to the players for their hard work and effort. They didn’t quit and kept playing throughout the game. We had a lot of perseverance today. As a team, we have played a lot better in the past and had disappointing losses. But not because of our players’ effort and heart. Today was a rough game. We had a lot of missed opportunities and turnovers, but we pulled through a great win.”

Two early Clemson mistakes led to the first score of the game, a three-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Mustafa Greene, and the Tigers found themselves in an early 7-0 hole.

Clemson responded with a 15-play drive - tied for the longest of the season – and marched down to the Wolfpack 15-yard line, but a rash of mistakes led to a 37-yard field goal attempt by Richard Jackson. The attempt was pushed wide right, however, and the long drive resulted in zero points.

N.C. State failed to take advantage of the mistake, missing a field goal, and Parker was replaced at quarterback by Tajh Boyd. However, his handoff to Jamie Harper was fumbled, and the Pack took over at the Clemson seven-yard line.

DeAndre McDaniel helped the Tigers avert further disaster when he intercepted Wilson’s third-down pass in the end zone. The interception was his fourth of the season.

It was following McDaniel’s interception that Steele collapsed on the sideline, and play was halted as medical personnel surrounded him. He finally got back to his feet and resumed coaching, and he later said that he hyperventilated following McDaniel’s play.

Defensive end Andre Branch said seeing Steele down motivated the defense even more.

“We always have confidence, and we just never stay satisfied,” Branch said. “Coach Steele just told us when they have the ball, don’t let them score. That’s what we went out there and did. Coach Steele is our leader. When we saw him down, we wanted to pick him up by playing like we did.”

The Tigers had one last chance to score before the half, driving down as deep as the Wolfpack’s 13-yard line. An apparent touchdown pass to Bryce McNeal was called back for holding, and Parker took sacks on the next two plays as time ran out.

In the half, Clemson had 190 yards of total offense and three red zone possessions, but had no points to show for the output.

Clemson’s first possession of the second half started with a Parker fumble following another sack, and the Wolfpack took over at the Clemson 17-yard line. They converted the turnover into a 28-yard field goal by Josh Cjazkowski, and N.C. State led 10-0 early in the third quarter.

An N.C. State fumble on their own 22-yard line set up the Tigers’ first score of the day. Five plays into the drive and facing a second-and-goal at the 12, Parker hit Hopkins on a crossing pattern in the end zone for the first offensive touchdown in seven quarters. The score trimmed the N.C. State advantage to 10-7 late in the third quarter.

N.C. State got a 27-yard field goal by Cjazkowski on the ensuing possession for a 13-7 lead with 13:22 remaining, but Marcus Gilchrist answered with a 76-yard kickoff return to set up the Tigers at the N.C. State 21-yard line.

The Tigers were unable to get a first down, and a bad snap was the culprit as Jackson missed a 32-yard field goal. The defense held again, and Gilchrist returned the punt to the Wolfpack 39-yard line with 9:27 remaining.

Eight plays later, Harper crashed in from the four-yard line to put the Tigers ahead 14-13 with 6:18 remaining, once again putting the fate of the contest in the hands of the defense. The Wolfpack gained two quick first downs, and actually had a fourth-and-one at the Clemson 43-yard line.

Pack head coach Tom O’Brien elected to punt, however, and the Tigers were unable to gain a first down. The Tigers narrowly averted disaster on the punt when the ball was snapped high and to punter Dawson Zimmerman’s right, but Zimmerman jumped high to snare the ball with one hand.

Zimmerman tapped the ball in the air, came down with it, and punted it to the Wolfpack 15-yard line. Wilson and the Pack offense took over with one last chance, but Da’Quan Bowers pressured Wilson into hurried throws on two of the last three plays. The final play saw Wilson pressured up the middle, and he rolled to his right, but was sandwiched in between Bowers and Andre Branch as he let the ball go. The ball fell incomplete to seal the victory.

O’Brien said that Clemson’s defensive front made the difference in a close game.

“They’re so powerful up front,” O’Brien said. “Our guys were run over more than one time. But we had some opportunities. We had some chances. When you play a defense like that, when you’re overmatched, then you have to make the plays. If you make the plays, then it’s a totally different story.

“Certainly, it was a tough day for us. We had our chances, but you have to give their defense credit. That’s as solid a defense as we’ve played all year. We kept them in the game. We lost our destiny, but we’re still in it. Somebody has to help us now.”

The Tigers travel to Tallahassee, Florida, next weekend to take on the Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m.

Score by Quarters     1  2  3  4   Score
-----------------    -- -- -- --   -----
NC State............  7  0  3  3  - 13       Record: (6-3,3-2)
Clemson.............  0  0  7  7  - 14       Record: (5-4,3-3)

Scoring Summary:
1st 10:41 ST - Greene, M. 3 yd pass from Wilson, R. (Czajkowski, J. kick), 7-58 2:32, ST 7 - CU 0
3rd 09:10 ST - Czajkowski, J. 28 yd field goal, 4-2 2:08, ST 10 - CU 0
    02:44 CU - DeAndre Hopkins 12 yd pass from Kyle Parker (Richard Jackson kick), 5-22 2:09, ST 10 - CU 7
4th 13:22 ST - Czajkowski, J. 27 yd field goal, 10-70 4:16, ST 13 - CU 7
    06:18 CU - Jamie Harper 4 yd run (Chandler Catanzaro kick), 8-39 3:09, ST 13 - CU 14

                                     ST       CU
FIRST DOWNS...................       17       16
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............    29-63    41-46
PASSING YDS (NET).............      212      214
Passes Att-Comp-Int...........  36-22-1  30-20-1
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS.....   65-275   71-260
Fumble Returns-Yards..........      0-0      0-0
Punt Returns-Yards............      0-0      1-8
Kickoff Returns-Yards.........     3-52    4-131
Interception Returns-Yards....      1-8      1-0
Punts (Number-Avg)............   5-29.0   4-36.8
Fumbles-Lost..................      2-1      5-2
Penalties-Yards...............     4-25     7-77
Possession Time...............    29:26    30:34
Third-Down Conversions........  5 of 15  8 of 17
Fourth-Down Conversions.......   0 of 1   1 of 1
Red-Zone Scores-Chances.......      3-5      2-5
Sacks By: Number-Yards........     3-28     4-21

RUSHING: NC State-Wilson, R. 9-29; Greene, M. 12-26; Washington, J. 8-8.
Clemson-Jamie Harper 25-60; Tajh Boyd 2-5; Roderick McDowell 3-5; Bryce McNeal
1-3; TEAM 3-minus 6; Kyle Parker 7-minus 21.

PASSING: NC State-Wilson, R. 22-36-1-212. Clemson-Kyle Parker
20-29-1-214; Marquan Jones 0-1-0-0.

RECEIVING: NC State-Bryan, G. 4-51; Washington, J. 4-49; Spencer, O.
4-40; Graham, T. 4-22; Williams, J. 3-18; Greene, M. 2-20; Smith, J. 1-12.
Clemson-Marquan Jones 6-47; DeAndre Hopkins 5-80; Jamie Harper 3-34; Bryce
McNeal 3-33; Dwayne Allen 2-13; Brandon Ford 1-7.

INTERCEPTIONS: NC State-Manning, T. 1-8. Clemson-DeAndre McDaniel 1-0.

FUMBLES: NC State-Greene, M. 1-1; Wilson, R. 1-0. Clemson-Kyle Parker
2-1; Bryce McNeal 1-0; Marcus Gilchrist 1-0; Jamie Harper 1-1.

Stadium: Memorial Stadium      Attendance: 74000
Kickoff time: 12:12 PM  End of Game: 3:18 PM   Total elapsed time: 3:06
Officials: Referee: Jack Childress; Umpire: Mark Pellis; Linesman: Troy Gray;
Line judge: Tommy Giles; Back judge: Barry Hendon; Field judge: Mike Cullin;
Side judge: D. Harrison;
Temperature: 52 deg    Wind: Calm      Weather: Sunny

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