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November 19, 2011

Keys to the game - revisited



NC State had by far its best performance of the season in a 37-13 win over No. 7 Clemson Saturday afternoon at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.

The Wolfpack improved to 6-5 overall and have to defeat Clemson and Maryland next Saturday to become bowl eligible.

Here are the Keys To The Game - Revisited:

Slow down the pace

What we wrote: Clemson's offense will try and make the game a track meet, which won't work for NC State. The Tigers have scored at least 23 points in every game but one, which was the 31-17 loss to Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets jumped the Tigers early and never looked back in an emotional victory. NC State will need to follow the same script.

Clemson has scored 35 or more points in eight of its nine wins, and NC State just doesn't have the big-play potential to get into a shootout.


What happened: NC State not only did that, they were able to keep Clemson's off the field thanks to a stout defensive performance and a time-consuming offense. The Pack had the ball for 36:29. That was the most State has had possession this year and conversely the second fewest Clemson had behind 21:00 against the Yellow Jackets.

Expose Clemson's rush defense

What we wrote: Wake Forest rushed for 145 yards on 35 carries last Saturday thanks to the effort of running back Brandon Pendergrass, who tallied 134 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

Georgia Tech rushed for 383 yards on 67 carries in its victory over Clemson. UNC had to abandon the running game, but its one-two punch of Giovani Bernard and Ryan Houston combined for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.

Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown had 162 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, and Boston College's top two backs had 138 yards and a score on 30 carries.

NC State might not have a running quarterback like the Terrapins, or run the option like the Yellow Jackets, but it has been proven that teams can run on the Tigers this season.


What happened: The Pack had a solid effort rushing thanks to a committed rushing attack. The duo of junior James Washington and redshirt freshman Tony Creecy ran a combined 37 times for 151 yards and a score. State finished the game with 145 yards rushing as a team when sacks and kneel downs were included, but that still represented the Pack's fourth best rushing performance of the year.

Get a few lucky bounces

What we wrote: The Wolfpack passing game is due for a big play or two Saturday, and the defense could use some turnovers in Tigers' territory.

NC State wide receivers Tobais Palmer, T.J. Graham and Bryan Underwood all have the speed to make something happen, whether it's a bomb or taking a short pass and turning it into a big play.

Redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon has a big arm and is adept at rolling out and throwing downfield on the run. He'll need to take some chances to keep pace with Clemson's offense.

NC State sophomore cornerback David Amerson has 10 interceptions, and is one away from tying the ACC record, held by former UNC star cornerback Dre Bly. Whether it's Amerson or another NC State defender, the Wolfpack will need to create some turnovers and turn them into points.


What happened: Whether or not they were lucky bounces, State forced four turnovers and that was one of the key stats from the game. The Pack picked off a pair of passes, one of them by Amerson, and also picked up two fumbles. One was a lucky bounce. With State up 14-3, Clemson tried a reverse to freshman running back Mike Bellamy at its own 19, but the exchange was botched and redshirt junior linebacker Terrell Manning picked it up at the Clemson 18.

Give Glennon some time

What we wrote: NC State has allowed 25 sacks this season, including three in the loss to Boston College last week. Glennon has also had several passes batted down at the line of scrimmage this week.

The Wolfpack offense will need to protect Glennon against the Tigers fierce pass rush. The onus isn't just on the offensive line. Tight ends, running backs or fullbacks who are picking up the blitz, trying to knock down defenders or chipping away at them, will also need to come through and complete the block.


What happened: Glennon was sacked twice, but as the game developed, he began to get more time to throw the football and started playing more like the Glennon that State fans saw earlier this season.

Matchups to watch

What we wrote: Clemson senior defensive end Andre Branch vs. NC State redshirt junior left tackle R.J. Mattes: This is the kind of matchup NFL scouts will love to watch. Branch is second on the Tigers with 60 tackles and leads the ACC with 8.5 sacks. He also has 12 quarterback pressures and one forced fumble. Mattes is coming off a foot injury and has allowed four sacks this season, one of which came when he was hobbled vs. UNC.

What happened: Branch had a solid afternoon, making nine tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and pressuring the quarterback twice, but Branch was not a thorn in State's side for the afternoon either.

What we wrote: NC State cornerbacks Amerson and Rashard Smith vs. Clemson's wide receivers: The two NC State cornerbacks will be running all over the field against Clemson's passing attack, which threw the ball 44 times last week against Wake Forest. Amerson and Smith will get matched up against sophomore wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, junior wide receiver Jaron Brown, and if he plays, sensational freshman Sammy Watkins, who is listed as "questionable" with a shoulder injury.

What happened: Redshirt junior corner C.J. Wilson actually got the start over Smith, but Wilson gave up a long 43-yard completion to Hopkins on one play. Overall though State held its own, limiting Clemson's big plays. It helped that Watkins did not play.

Stats to watch

What we wrote: 5: Number of first quarters this season where the Wolfpack haven't scored a point.

What happened: Make it six.

What we wrote: 92: Difference in rushing yards for NC State when the Wolfpack play at home compared to away games. NCSU averages 148 rushing yards per game at home, but 56 in road contests.

What happened: Par for the course at home, NC State ran for 145 yards, 89 more their road average.

Play of the game: State redshirt freshman defensive end Art Norman nailed Boyd from behind at the Clemson 10, forcing a fumble that was picked up by Manning and returned to the Clemson 6, setting up State's second touchdown of the game and giving the Pack a surprising 14-3 second quarter lead with 10:33 left before halftime.

Run of the game: It came on a pass, but it deserves kudos for the run after the catch. Palmer caught a flair pass from Glennon at the 43, sprinted down the line and then escaped about six potential tackles on his way for a 43-yard touchdown with 5:41 left in the third quarter to give the Pack a 37-6 lead.

Pass of the game: NC State took a 7-3 lead with 11:35 left in the first half when Glennon whizzed a pass over a Clemson defender's hand that fifth-year senior tight end George Bryan caught and then tight-roped the sideline for an 11-yard score.

Hit of the game: Norman's sack was a nice hit as well.

Special teams play of the game: Graham nearly returned a punt for a touchdown, returning it 34 yards to the Clemson 6. It would have been Graham's fifth career return for a score if he had kept his balance along the sideline.

Offensive player of the game: Glennon did not play a perfect game, but he completed 19 of 29 passes for 253 yards and three scores without an interception and managed the game fairly well.

Defensive player of the game: Manning was all over the place for NC State. He was credited with eight tackles, including 3.5 for loss and assisting on a sack, forced a fumble, recovered a pair and also broke up a pass.

Special teams player of the game: Freshman kicker Niklas Sade had his best game kicking. He made all three field goal attempts, the longest being from 32 yards.



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