Wolfpack Whip Tigers, 38-6
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.
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
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
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
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
"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."
N.C. State 8, Clemson 0
Scoring Play: Holt's 39-yard return of a blocked punt (2-point run good) at
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
NO CAROLINA ST - Philip Rivers 15-24-129- 1.
CLEMSON - Willie Simmons 7-15-99- 1. Charlie Whitehurst 6-17-64- 1.
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.
JJ McKelvey 5-92, Airese Currie 2-24, Kevin Youngblood 1-23, Derrick Hamilton 3-16, Jackie Robinson 1-6, Yusef Kelly 1-2.