Wolfpack Whip Tigers, 38-6

by - Correspondent -
Willie Simmons tries to recover his fumble.

CLEMSON - Critics of N.C. State's high ranking this season have pointed to its poor strength of schedule, saying the Wolfpack has yet to beat a quality opponent two-thirds of the way through the season. Maybe they still haven't. The No. 12 Wolfpack stunned the announced Death Valley crowd of 74,000 Thursday night with a dominating 38-6 victory over Clemson in a game televised nationally by ESPN. What the country saw, at least before the channel-surfing began early in the fourth quarter, was two teams seemingly headed in drastically opposite directions. While the win improved State to a best-ever start of 9-0 (4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), Clemson's night proved to be a microcosm of its entire season.

Tommy Bowden - Real | Windows Media NCSU Head Coach Chuck Amato - Real | Windows Media ROV Altroy Bodrick - Real | Windows Media OL Gary Byrd - Real | Windows Media RB Bernard Rambert - Real | Windows Media DB Justin Miller - Real | Windows Media
The Tigers (4-4, 2-3 ACC) had their offense grind to a halt, their special teams collapse yet again, and their defense wilt under both the weight of defending a short field far too often and the relentless, varied attack of the Wolfpack. Worse, the team seemed void of much emotion despite an electric pregame crowd and the presence of the ESPN cameras. "I want to apologize to the crowd," said Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden. "They came out and did what we asked them to do and we didn't respond to them as a team...I didn't have my team ready to play. It was obvious they had their team ready and I didn't. "We need to find a solution." The Wolfpack won the total yardage battle 369-229, including 240 on the ground against a Clemson defense suddenly vulnerable to the run. Freshman tailback T.A. McClendon, the ACC's second-leading rusher at 90.7 yards per game coming in, dodged, darted and sprinted for a career-high 178 yards and two touchdowns, the first of which came on a fourth-and-one call in the first quarter in which he broke free for a 31-yard score. McClendon's run gave the Wolfpack a 15-0 lead and, though no one realized it at the time, effectively sealed Clemson's fate for the evening. "We've been on TV four times and (McClendon's) numbers have been 80, 150, 165 and 178," said State coach Chuck Amato. "I told him this is on national TV, so you have to break the other records." The debauchery actually started a series earlier when Manny Lawton blocked a Wynn Kopp punt. The ball was scooped up on a bounce by Terrence Holt, who raced 39 yards for an N.C. State touchdown. A successful run by holder Chris Young on a fake extra point attempt gave the 'Pack an early 8-0 lead. N.C. State extended the lead to 22-0 in the second quarter after recovering a fumble by Clemson quarterback Willie Simmons at the Tigers' 15. Five plays later, quarterback Philip Rivers (15-of-24, 159 yards, interception) plunged over from the 1-yard line for the final score of the first half. Simmons' fumble resulted in his benching for the remainder of the half, and may have finally plunged Clemson into a legitimate quarterback controversy. Redshirt freshman Charlie Whitehurst played the final three series of the second quarter, with little more than an interception to show for his efforts. Simmons (7-of-15, 99 yards) returned in the second half but was yanked again after yet another fumble, this time early in the fourth quarter. Whitehurst returned and finished the game but fared no better, finishing just 7-of-16 for 64 yards. Each quarterback threw an interception, and Simmons also lost a fumble late in the game. "We'll have to look at the film," Bowden said. "When you make a change like that (sometimes) you're trying to generate something. It wasn't done only because of the things Willie did wrong." But it wasn't just the quarterbacks. Clemson's inability to convert short-yardage situations was as alarming as it was consistent. Three times the Tigers faced either a third or fourth-and-one situation, and once faced third-and-two. Each time they came up short. "That's the worst I've ever had in that situation," Bowden said. Amato, on the other hand, was ecstatic. "I've said it many times; we will not be really great until we can learn to play great defense," he said. "(This) was probably one of the finest defense games, against a team as explosive as Clemson, that we've played in the 2 1/2 years since I've been here." State's final scores - all in the second half, came on a 26-yard field goal by Adam Kiker, a 4-yard run by McClendon and Jerricho Cotchery's 42-yard return of an onside kick. Cotchery's touchdown came after Clemson freshman Justin Miller scored on an 80-yard kickoff return following McClendon's score midway through the fourth quarter. Miller's dash was the shortest kickoff return for a touchdown in Clemson history, and proved to be the only thing that kept the Tigers from being shut out. Fellow defensive back Brian Mance, who had one of Clemson's few bright spots with his team-leading fifth interception of the season, sounded as if he were speaking for the entire program when approached by reporters after it was all over. "The most disappointing thing about tonight has to be the final score and the fact that it was on national TV," he said. "It's going to look bad at the bottom of the TV screen. "You're kind of embarrassed." First Quarter N.C. State 8, Clemson 0 Scoring Play: Holt's 39-yard return of a blocked punt (2-point run good) at 4:51. N.C. State 15, Clemson 0 Scoring Drive: 7 plays, 80 yards in 3:36. Scoring Play: McClendon's 31-yard run at 13:31. Key Play: Scoring play, which came on fourth-and-1. Second Quarter N.C. State 22, Clemson 0 Scoring Drive: 5 plays, 15 yards in 2:24. Scoring Play: Rivers 1-yard run at 10:15. Key Play: Simmons fumble to give State possession at CU 15. Third Quarter N.C. State 25, Clemson 0 Scoring Drive: 8 plays, 74 yards in 3:40. Scoring Play: Kiker's 26-yard field goal at 7:53. Key Play: After being stopped for no gain on third-and-10 from the CU 18, the Tigers were flagged for a late hit on State tailback T.A. McClendon. The penalty gave State the ball first-and-goal at the CU 9. Fourth Quarter N.C. State 32, Clemson 0. Scoring Drive: 10 plays, 70 yards in 4:35. Scoring Play: McClendon's 4-yard run at 8:10. Key Play: None. N.C. State 32, Clemson 6 Scoring Play: Miller's 80-yard kickoff return at 7:52 (pass failed). N.C. State 38, Clemson 6 Scoring Play: Cotchery's 42-yard return of an onside kick at 7:46 (kick failed). Team Statistics
                NO CAROLINA ST CLEMSON 
 First downs                16 10 
 Rushed-yards           50-240 27-66 
 Passing yards             129 163 
 Sacked-yards lost         0-0 2-18 
 Return yards               96 24 
 Passes                15-24-1 13-32-2 
 Punts                  3-41.7 7-32 
 Fumbles-lost              1-1 3-3 
 Penalties-yards          6-55 3-34 
 Time of possession      37:12 22:48 
Individual Statistics Rushing NO CAROLINA ST - T. A. McLendon 28-178, Josh Brown 13-48, Philip Rivers 5-12, Jay Davis 1-3, Jerricho Cotchery 1-2, - Team 2-MINUS 3. CLEMSON - Bernard Rambert 10-53, Yusef Kelly 6-29, Willie Simmons 6-1, Derrick Hamilton 2-0, Chad Jasmin 1-0, Charlie Whitehurst 2-MINUS 17. Passing NO CAROLINA ST - Philip Rivers 15-24-129- 1. CLEMSON - Willie Simmons 7-15-99- 1. Charlie Whitehurst 6-17-64- 1. Receiving NO CAROLINA ST - T.J. Williams 1-29, Bryan Peterson 5-23, Sean Berton 2-22, T. A. McLendon 3-22, Jerricho Cotchery 1-16, Josh Brown 2-12, Sterling Hicks 1-5. CLEMSON JJ McKelvey 5-92, Airese Currie 2-24, Kevin Youngblood 1-23, Derrick Hamilton 3-16, Jackie Robinson 1-6, Yusef Kelly 1-2. Attendance -74,000

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