The past decade against Clemson has not been pretty. In fact, it seems that most matchups have been one sided with the Pack on the wrong side of the final score. When I think of Clemson, I think of a team, like Maryland, which has been a thorn in the Pack’s side. Is this really true? Let’s look at the last ten games of the series.
2002: Clemson. NC State 38, Clemson 6. The Wolfpack was 8-0 and showed the nation on a Thursday night game in Death Valley that this team was for real. As was getting commonplace, the special teams started the rout with a blocked punt by Manny Lawson that was returned for a TD by Terrence Holt. The biggest play of the game was later in the first half when, on 4th and 1 from the Clemson 31, TA McLendon broke through the line of scrimmage and rambled almost untouched for a crushing touchdown. From there, the Pack dominated for an easy victory. Now, at 9-0, the nation took notice. Unfortunately, Georgia Tech noticed, and they were next on the schedule.
2003: Raleigh. NC State 17, Clemson 15. Another Thursday night affair for these teams, but this matchup was in Raleigh. Two high powered offenses were expected to make fireworks all night long against young defenses, but the defenses were stout and a low scoring game ensued. Philip Rivers threw 2 touchdown passes and tied Chris Weinke for the most TD passes in ACC history. After Clemson scored a touchdown to pull within two in the fourth quarter, the two-point conversion was dropped and the defense held on the rest of the way.
2004: Clemson. Clemson 26, NC State 20. NC State outplayed Clemson for most of the game but could never get out of its own way. The Pack played hot potato with the ball, as Clemson forced six turnovers, including five interceptions. In one drive that summed up the game, the offense had two touchdowns called back because of penalties for illegal formation. Even with all of the mistakes, the offense had one last chance to win, but Jay Davis threw his last interception from the Clemson 12 with seconds remaining in the game.
2005: Raleigh. Clemson 31, NC State 10. Yet another Thursday night game between the Tigers and the Wolfpack. This time, the game wasn’t close. Clemson dominated in every facet of the game. There were two noteworthy items coming out of that game. First, James Davis is a very good running back, as he had 143 yards and 2 touchdowns, and made it look easy. Second, during a television timeout, the Good Sports Recycle video featuring Chuck Amato was shown up on the jumbotron which then was inundated with loud boos. It marked the tipping point in the Amato era that was concluded 13 months later.
2006: Clemson. Clemson 20, NC State 14. Even though the Pack shutdown Davis, CJ Spiller ran wild for 154 yards, including a nifty 52 yard touchdown run. After racing out to a 14-0 lead, the Tigers let up and the Pack came back to tie the game on a great pick six by Willie Young. But two field goals in the fourth quarter and a controversial official ruling on a Daniel Evans pass to Lamart Barrett near the goal line spoiled Toney Baker’s 174 yards rushing.
2007: Raleigh. Clemson 42, NC State 20. This was the ugliest game of the past decade. The final score was not indicative of the huge discrepancy between the two teams. Even though it was 27-14 at the half, it easily could have been 48-14. The Tigers outgained the Pack 608-202 for the game. Tommy Bowden definitely was merciful on this day.
2008: Clemson. Clemson 27, NC State 9. Russell Wilson’s first ACC start was one he wants to forget. The offense never got untracked. Even though the Tigers had their share of mistakes, the Wolfpack offense was stuck in neutral and couldn’t manufacture a serious threat to Cullen Harper, CJ Spiller, and company. The lone Wolfpack highlight was the first play of the game as Nate Irving picked off Harper and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown.
2009: Raleigh. Clemson 43, NC State 23. CJ Spiller beat up on the Wolfpack one last time, saving his best for last. He ran, caught, and threw for a touchdown in the game. The Pack’s young defense continued to take their lumps as they struggled to contain Spiller and Kyle Parker. The Tigers jumped on the Pack early and often taking a quick 17-0 lead and a 24-7 halftime advantage. From there, the Tigers coasted for the 43-23 victory.
2010: Clemson. Clemson 14, NC State 13. This matchup is regarded as one of the most disappointing losses in the Tom O’Brien era. Controlling their own destiny, the Pack struggled putting points on the scoreboard despite numerous possessions deep in Clemson territory. Despite trailing all day and facing a stiff defense, Clemson took the lead with six minutes left and held on. The most vivid recollection is the Pack punting on 4th and 1 from the Clemson 43 with four minutes to go. To top it off, the punt only traveled four yards. This game sticks out to me as the one game that got away that hurt the most in the past six years under O’Brien’s leadership.
2011: Raleigh. NC State 37, Clemson 13. Clemson came into this game ranked seventh and sported one of the top offenses in the nation. Even without super stud freshman Sammy Watkins, their offense was scary. But the Pack played the best game of the year by far and completely dominated all facets in route to a dismantling of the top 10 team and eventual ACC champion. 27 straight points in the second quarter took Clemson out of their game plan and allowed State to impose their will on the Tigers. Mike Glennon had 3 touchdown passes and the defense forced four turnovers.
So what does this mean for Saturday? Clemson is a 17.5 point favorite. Even though they won’t say it publicly, revenge is on their mind. Also, a possible 11-1 record is in their grasp with a victory on Saturday and another one over South Carolina next week. A win by Clemson could possibly send them to the Sugar Bowl and move the Pack up the bowl rung to the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Ironically enough, a NC State win could possibly send the Tigers down to the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the Pack down to the Russell Athletic (former Champs) Bowl in Orlando.
One good thing to remember regarding this series for Saturday…CJ Spiller has exhausted his eligibility.