North Carolina St - Clemson Preview


by - Correspondent -
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A year ago Rivers threw for 410 yards and four TDs in a losing effort against Clemson.

CLEMSON - Funny things seem to happen when Clemson and North Carolina State
get together.


The last four games in this series, especially, have been nerve-wracking for
students of defense. During that stretch the teams have combined for 73.5
points and 842 yards per game. Clemson has won two in a row and five of the
previous seven.


So do the stats and trends mean anything? In this series, who knows.


Especially this season, in which No. 12 N.C. State (8-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast
Conference) may be the least-tested Top 15 team in recent memory. The
Wolfpack has played exactly one team (Texas Tech) with a winning record in
2002, and three of their eight wins have come against two Division 1-AA
opponents (East Tennessee State, UMass) and Navy.


Yet there's no denying this is a talented, potentially dangerous N.C. State
team. Quarterback Philip Rivers, now a junior, has been torturing opposing
defenses since the day he walked on campus and shows no signs of letting up.


And now with freshman T.A. McClendon (90.7 yards per game) providing a
meaningful running game to compliment his passing, Rivers is even more
dangerous than before.


"There is a presence about him as far as making plays. He seems to know where
everyone is on the field," Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden said. "He plays
with great tenacity. He's the leader of the team. He'll get after the
defense, yell at
offensive linemen and the wideouts. The team seems to have his personality.


"His father was a coach, and I'm sure that had something to do with it. His
personality just seems to be intense, and that helps in this sport."


Rivers, who has thrown a touchdown in 24 of his 30 career starts, has
blistered opponents this season with a pass efficiency rating of 170.8, tops
in the nation. A year ago he threw for 410 yards and four touchdowns in a
losing effort against Clemson.


In an effort to slow Rivers, Tiger defenders have talked openly of blitzing
more often tonight. The hope is to confuse Rivers and cut down on the time he
has to read his receiver progression.


Meanwhile, State's defense - tops in the ACC (310 yards allowed per game)
will get its stiffest challenge since Texas Tech.


If the Tigers can throw the ball downfield effectively, which always seems to
be a key with this team, the Wolfpack defense could be in for a long night.
The better the passing attack, the more room Bernard Rambert and Yusef Kelly
will find to run as the game wears on.


As for Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato, he knows facing Tiger quarterback Willie
Simmons won't be an easy task. But he's thankful, at least, that it's not
Woody Dantzler lining up under center.


Dantzler made a mockery of the State defense a year ago, passing for 333
yards and four touchdowns and rushing for another 184 yards.


"I said this last year after we thought we made [Woody] the Heisman Trophy
winner last year, I hope I never have to see another that good," Amato said.
"He was truly a tailback playing at quarterback that could throw the halfback
pass.


"Willie has shown that he can move too. He's not as fast from the waist down,
but that doesn't mean anything. He's quick, he's mobile, and he knows their
offense. Those kind of quarterbacks present a problem."


Pregame Notes


CLEMSON - For some Clemson players, the best thing about playing North
Carolina State tonight is not facing Wake Forest again.


The Demon Deacons' blocking style - cut blocks designed to take out the legs
of the opposition - is something the Tigers hadn't seen as a complete scheme
before, and likely won't again. The unusual nature of Wake Forest's blocking
helped the Deacs roll up 365 rushing yards against Clemson.


It also had some Tigers accusing Wake Forest of dirty play, intentionally
trying to hurt the opposition with its cut blocking. Similar charges were
made earlier this year by members of the Florida State team.


They're all wrong, said Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden.


"It ain't dirty. That's why they're not coaching. I can promise you it ain't
dirty," Bowden said. "You take our guys. Can you cut them in practice? No.
You can't go cutting your starters in practice, so you have to do drill work.


"So the first time you see it full speed in a game, they're not used to it,
so they're reaction is different. It's the furthest thing from dirty. It's
good, hard-nosed coaching. That's what it is."


PACK-ED AWAY?


If Clemson beats No. 12 N.C. State tonight, it wouldn't come as much of a
surprise.


The Tigers have made a habit of beating ranked Wolfpack teams over the years,
including four of the last five times the 'Pack has been ranked in the Top
25. Three times Clemson has upset an N.C. State team ranked No. 12 or better,
and all three have been at Clemson.


The most notable occasion was 1967, when an 8-1 N.C. State team - complete
with a starting defender named Chuck Amato - ranked No. 10 in the country
dropped a 14-6 decision at Death Valley. The Wolfpack managed just 152 yards
of total offense that day.


SHORT STUFF


CLEMSON


Bernard Rambert ran for two second-half touchdowns and the Tiger defense came
up with five turnovers as Clemson snapped a two-game losing streak with a
31-23 victory over Wake Forest ... Derrick Hamilton has three 200 all-purpose
yardage games this season ... Hamilton leads the ACC and is 10th nationally
in all-purpose yardage (164.6) ... Hamilton's 164.6 yards per game average is
16.1 yards per game ahead of Tony Horne's school record of 148.5 yards per
game set in 1997... the Tigers are second in the ACC and 21st in the nation
in total defense allowing 316.6 yards per game as compared to 395.0 yards
allowed per contest last year ... sophomore Yusef Kelly leads the team in
rushing with 393 yards and eight touchdowns ... junior PK Aaron Hunt is
seventh on Clemson's all-time scoring list with 199 points ... senior Brian
Mance leads the ACC interceptions with four ... the Tigers lead the ACC in
pass defense (164.1) and are tied with Florida State for the league lead with
11 interceptions.


N.C. STATE


NC State is 8-0 for the first time since 1967 and is ranked ninth in this
week's Coaches' Poll ... junior QB Philip Rivers leads the nation in passing
efficiency (170.8) and has thrown at least one TD pass in 24 of his 30 career
starts ... Rivers is ninth on the ACC career passing list (7,655) and 11th in
total offense (7,585) ... true freshman T.A. McLendon leads the ACC in
scoring (10.3) and is second in rushing (90.7) ... wide receiver Bryan
Peterson is tied for fourth on State's all-time reception list (122) and
seventh in receiving yardage (1,783) ... Terrance Holt has blocked an
ACC-record 12 kicks for his career, including seven field goal attempts ...
the Pack has blocked 37 kicks since the start of the 1998 season ... NC
State's five remaining opponents are a combined 24-12 (.667) - the 16th
toughest remaining schedule in the country.

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