Stuckey And Fudge Answer Bowden's Plea
Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden pleaded with his team to make one more play during the bye week leading up to the game against NC State. In the previous game, the ball did not bounce favorably for Clemson wide receiver Chansi Stuckey. On Thursday night, the ball bounced to Stuckey and he made the one play Clemson needed.
In Clemson’s first two possessions, the Tigers only gained 11 yards. It appeared the Tigers were headed for another three and out. On third and four, Clemson set up a screen to Stuckey. NC State linebacker Stephen Tulloch had a great read on the play. Tulloch jumped the screen and appeared to be headed for a pick six, however the ball bounced off his fingertips right to Stuckey. As Wolfpack defenders were in disarray, Stuckey raced up field for 22 yard gain. Clemson would never look back.
The Tigers would go on to post 28 points and 288 yards offense in the first half after the Stuckey play. It was a key swing in momentum for the Tigers.
The Wolfpack defense appeared to be on their heels the rest of the half. Clemson’s offensive line found new life and pushed around the future NFL prospects on NC State’s defensive line. Barry Richardson and Roman Fry played their best football of the year. Richardson sealed off Manny Lawson with apparent ease. Fry pushed defensive tackle John McCargo all over the field.
It was just what the doctor ordered for Clemson. Coach Bowden had preached to his young team how close they were. This team had played to the final horn every game, but quietly the players were waiting on the ball to bounce their way.
For the first time since Miami, the defense appeared to feed off of the offense. Once Clemson took the lead, the defense turned up the heat on quarterback Jay Davis. Clemson was only able to sack Davis once, but he was pressured into making bad throws all not. In fact, Davis was replaced by Marcus Stone in the fourth quarter. The defense also made a key play.
After Clemson went up 14-0, the Wolfpack appeared to be ready to collapse. On the kickoff, Darrell Blackmon provided a spark returning the kickoff to the Clemson 42. On second down, freshman running back Toney Baker ran off the left side, and as he was fighting for extra yards, Jamaal Fudge made the play. Fudge ripped the ball out of Baker’s hands and recovered the fumble.
The coaching staff should be commended for maintaining the spirits of this team for a third year in the row. As the odds appeared stack against them, the Tigers made the one more play and then some on their way to a 31-10 victory.