In a game nowhere near as close as the final score, the Clemson Tigers eviscerated NC State yesterday in Carter-Finley, 43-23. We blogged and had a lot of community input during the game that can be seen by clicking here.
Given that Clemson are the Tigers, and tigers of course have claws, perhaps synonyms for “claw” (the verb) yield the best description of what Clemson was able to do to the NC State defense: “lacerate, mangle, maul, open, rip, scrabble, scrap, scrape, scratch, tear, break, dig, graze, hurt.” On offense, State played a fairly decent game, despite the tough Clemson defense they were facing. Special teams, on the other hand, well, if they were “special”, it was the sort of “special” that is brought to local school on short yellow buses.
There’s simply no other way to describe this game. If State was ever “in” the game, it was due to the offense and little else. Problem is, as soon as the Wolfpack would score and trim the Tiger lead, the NC State defense was hardly able to slow the Clemson running game or passing game. Even worse, a questionable strategy of refusing to kick to all-star C. J. Spiller left Clemson with superb field position all day, making their task of keeping the game out of hand all the easier.
Tom O’Brien said as much in his post-game interview, as described by the News and Observer:
While waiting for the game, some of N.C. State’s players saw highlights of Clemson running back C.J. Spiller on ESPN at the team hotel.
They hardly needed to be reminded of Spiller’s ability. He is the ACC career all-purpose yardage leader and has crept into contention in a wide-open Heisman Trophy race.
So how did he get so wide open for a 34-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of N.C. State’s 43-23 loss to the 24th-ranked Tigers on Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium?
Coach Tom O’Brien had difficulty explaining. He didn’t understand why the Wolfpack defenders made the coverage check that they did. He said two freshmen in the secondary weren’t where they were supposed to be.
“That’s just bad defense,” he said.
In this case, O’Brien was correct: the defensive secondary had multiple lapses in coverage leaving dangerous all-conference caliber receivers wide open and able to waltz into the end zone. You might be able to call it “Dancing With The Stars,” except State defenders were ten yards away, watching as haplessly as the fans in the stands.
Clemson averaged a season high 8.3 yards per play against the Wolfpack on Saturday. It was the highest average for a Clemson team since 2006 when Clemson averaged 9.64 yards a play against Temple. TEMPLE!? TEMPLE!?
Many fans made the observation that, like most of the games this season, Clemson was able to easily convert multiple key third and long situations when Mike Archer chose to rush only three or four defenders and allow Kyle Parker to pick apart our soft zone in the secondary. In fact, one thread on an NC State message board was titled, ’3rd and Zone’ highlighting how the Wolfpack rarely chose to blitz and pressure Parker on 3rd down and how easily the Tigers were able to convert and ultimately drive for scores. At the end of the day the Wolfpack had created zero sacks in a game that Coach O’Brien previously stated would see us blitz a lot.
The loss ends any slim hopes the Wolfpack team and its fans may have harbored of making a bowl game.