Roy Martin: NC State vs Clemson Post-Game Analysis

by - Correspondent -
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I was wrong.

I predicted N.C. State to win on Saturday. I felt going into the game that State’s offense was more productive than Clemson’s, and their defense was pretty stout despite having given up a ton of yards to Miami.

I still feel that way, but I am not as quick to judge Clemson in the manner many others have.

Some of the so-called experts seem to think N.C. State handed the game to Clemson on a silver platter.

Bart Wright has been one of the more outspoken critics. I do not write for a living, so I do not feel like I am breaking any unwritten rules when I say he is wrong. Good fortune did not have much, if anything, to do with Clemson’s win.

This victory was more about Clemson stepping up their level of play than it was N.C. State playing down to an opponent’s level.

I am not saying Clemson looked like a great team on Saturday. They still struggled offensively and looked less than stellar on N.C. State’s two long scoring drives. The difference in Saturday’s performance and some of Clemson’s prior contests is they made big plays time after time to keep themselves in the game.


It was not pretty, but it also was not as ugly as it has been.

The line did a better job of giving Charlie time to set up so he could let some of his receivers get into their routes and he could go through his progressions, at least more so than he has most of the year.

His completion percentage was not great, as he connected on only 42% of his passes. He missed a wide-open Airese Currie on one occasion, but other than that one throw, his numbers were a little deceiving. He attempted a number of deep throws that are very low percentage passes. He also had a couple of incompletions on pass interference calls and one pass that should have been ruled a catch.

Other than Currie, he does not have many big play receivers he can rely on at this point. What he does have is a number of possession receivers and he used that to his advantage. One play that has not been talked about very much is the pass to La’Donte Harris.

It was a very tough catch for the freshman and one that gained enough yards on third-and-long to put Clemson in field goal range. The youngster from Alabama has been very reliable when called on this season.

The coaches did a good job of scheming against the Wolfpack’s man coverage. Most notably, Duane Coleman had a catch out of a two-back set in which he and Merriweather crossed up the linebackers as they came out of the backfield.

Those two also continued to run hard while showing the speed Clemson has missed for so long. Merriweather has undoubtedly become the best back on the team and continues to improve with each outing. They did not put up huge numbers, but they got the most out of their blocking.

The line had their best game in some time in regards to pass blocking. Barry Richardson, Jesse Pickens, and Marion Dukes did a good job against State’s extremely quick defensive ends. Richardson is having an amazing season considering his age and experience level.

Dukes is playing well enough even though he seems to be playing out of position. He is better suited to line up as a guard, which he may well do if someone can step up at tackle during the off-season.

Perhaps the brightest spot for the offense was that they were able to finally convert on third down, going 7-for-15. They did it by not putting themselves in many third-and-long situations.

There are too many mistakes still being made at this point. Their third possession was an eight-play drive that resulted in a net loss of three yards. There were three penalties and a sack in that series. A fumbled snap on the second play of the game also put N.C. State in scoring position.

Fumbles are as much of a part of the game as anything. Big hits are going to result in turnovers throughout a season. The problem is fumbled snaps are unforced errors, which must be corrected.

Credit needs to be given to the Wolfpack defense. They came into the game ranked second in the country for a reason. Clemson was able to move the ball enough when it mattered, but they are still looking for the consistency that will push them to the next level.

Scoring has been a problem all season, so the four field goals were a welcomed occurrence. Still, those drives are going to have to be converted into touchdowns at some point. Nine-play, 76-yard drives need to end with seven points on the board.


It was a great performance against an offense that has given the Tigers fits the last few years.

They started the game on a great note when they held the Wolfpack to a field goal after they started just twenty yards from paydirt.

The Wolfpack did do some damage when they were not turning it over. Two 80-yard drives for touchdowns, and some big plays on the ground as well as through the air, leaves room for concern. N.C. State was also successful on seven of thirteen third down situations, which is a number John Lovett does not like to see.

Clemson was able to combat N.C. State’s success by collecting six turnovers. All but possibly one of those were forced. Say what you want about Jay Davis; he was harassed all day long even though he was sacked only twice.

Eric Coleman’s interception for a touchdown was a great play, especially for a guy his size. It was a great example of why you want to recruit big tight ends/defensive ends and grow them into tackles. It is much easier to grow athletes than it is to develop them.

The defensive tackles finally wreaked more havoc than the defensive ends. They have been pretty good against the run all year, but finally showed they are capable of disrupting schemes in passing situations.

Eric Coleman and Cory Groover were the most notable examples, but Chris McDuffie and Trey Tate also had solid games. Groover continues to be the best defensive lineman in my opinion, as he has been equally good against the run and pass.

Leroy Hill had another great game, but that is to be expected of him. One thing I did notice is he was replaced by David Dunham on the last couple of plays of the game. Unless he had an injury that has not been talked about, it tells me the coaches feel Dunham is a better linebacker in coverage situations.

The secondary had a good all-around game, although they were hurt the most when play action gave Davis ample time to throw. Justin Miller had his best game of the season by collecting two interceptions and providing solid coverage all day.

The one sore spot, especially among the secondary, continues to be poor tackling. Too many times guys tried to bump ball carriers out of bounds instead of wrapping up. Good skill players at this level will get through those tackles, as evidenced on numerous occasions Saturday.

Despite their poor play at times, enough credit cannot be given to the defense. They were the biggest reason Clemson won the game. They showed their resiliency all day long and deserve a game ball for their efforts.


Jad Dean deserves a collective thank you and pat on the back from the fans, coaches, and his teammates. He connected on all four of his field goal attempts, the longest of which came from 47 yards. Not only was he successful on all four attempts; he drilled them right down the middle while showing a strong leg.

He also had a great game kicking off when he was with the wind. It is hard to tell if he was trying too hard when going against it, or just trying to keep it low. Whatever the reason, he needs to correct whatever is causing him to kick it out of bounds in those situations.

Eighty percent of Cole Chason’s punts were good ones. He has improved tremendously from last year and is quietly becoming a weapon. One of the biggest reasons for his success has been the play of his coverage unit. They had another great game, giving up only two return yards on five punts.

Justin Miller had a solid effort in the punt return game. He had returns of 10, 12, and 15 yards on three punts. The strong wind and N.C. State’s decision to kick away from him kept Clemson’s kickoff return game in check.


There is still a lot that needs to be corrected. There were too many lapses on both sides of the ball for Tommy Bowden to feel comfortable about his chances of returning to a bowl game for the sixth year in a row. There is a lot that needs to be done in order to get the two wins needed to become eligible.

That being said, Clemson played well enough against a pretty good team to earn a victory rather than have one handed to them.

The offense is slowly getting where they need to be. The offensive line, and a receiving corps that lacks multiple playmakers, are still the Achilles heel. The problems with the receivers can be overcome if the offensive line starts to consistently provide enough time for Charlie to work the possession passes.

Defensively, they still must find a way to get off the field on third downs. Six turnover games are hard to come by and cannot be counted on to bail you out against a team that is having success moving the ball.

The one really bright spot is that the second unit of the front four has really stepped up their level of play as the season has progressed. There is not much of a drop off when they come into the game. As a matter of fact, there are times when it looks like the defense is better when they are in the game.

Doing a better job of tackling will go a long ways towards correcting many of the problems they have faced.

Overall, it was a great win. They had every opportunity to throw in the towel, but they continued to fight and came through when it mattered the most. Despite their 4-4 record, no one can say this team has not competed all year long. They have not always made plays when they needed them the most, but it was not because of a lack of heart.

There is a lot to be learned from this game. It was good character and confidence builder, which are two things that will be very useful as they continue to work with their backs against the wall.

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