NC State looking to upset No. 3 Clemson

jgiglio@newsobserver.comSeptember 12, 2013 

— There are two ways for N.C. State’s veteran players to remember Clemson.

There’s last year’s track-meet loss at Clemson, 62-48, in which Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd accounted for an ACC-record eight touchdowns and 529 yards of total offense.

And there’s a 37-13 upset at Carter-Finley Stadium in 2011 when the Tigers were ranked No. 7 in the country.

Senior cornerback Dontae Johnson said the Wolfpack (2-0) is focused on this shot at the Tigers, now No. 3 in the country, next Thursday at Carter-Finley Stadium in front of a national television audience.

But it’s tough, Johnson admitted, to forget about the ridiculous numbers Boyd, now a senior, posted last season against the Wolfpack’s secondary.

“You definitely remember it but it’s just one of those things you have to move on from,” Johnson said.

And on the opposite end of the memory bank, despite all the changes in the program since last December, Johnson said there’s something to be learned from the 2011 win and last year’s 17-16 home upset of then-No.3 Florida State.

“If you believe and play with passion, anything is possible,” Johnson said.

First-year coach Dave Doeren didn’t run into too many players with the talent of Boyd or receiver Sammy Watkins the past two seasons in the Mid-American Conference. Doeren said there’s a lot to like about the Tigers, especially Boyd.

“He’s a Heisman candidate for a reason,” Doeren said. “He has a great arm, he’s very savvy back there and makes good decisions. They run him when they need and he’ll do some things on his own. You have to know where he is and contain them.”

Boyd, the ACC player of the year last year in part for his record-setting game against the Wolfpack, has started the 2013 season quickly. He accounted for five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) in the Tigers’ 38-35 win over Georgia in the opener.

He watched in the second half of last week’s 52-13 romp of South Carolina State when his backup, Cole Stoudt, set a school record by completing 19 of 20 passes for 143 yards with three touchdowns.

Doeren said it is especially important for the Wolfpack to start quickly.

“They just score in bunches early in games and (go) up on people early,” Doeren said. “We’ve got to do a great job of trying to stay in the game early.”

The Wolfpack fell behind 21-10 in the first half of last week’s comeback win over Richmond. N.C. State’s defense allowed all of the Spiders’ points, and 215 passing yards to quarterback Michael Strauss, in the first half.

Strauss finished the game with 300 yards but the Wolfpack defense forced two fumbles by him in the second half and generated more pressure.

“We got better in the second half,” senior linebacker D.J. Green said. “We made some mental mistakes in the first half. We can’t do that against Clemson.”

Doeren said practice has been focused on preparing for Clemson the past three days. He said with 11 true freshman playing valuable minutes, the first of two open dates on the schedule this season has been a bonus.

With some time to digest the 23-21 win over Richmond, Doeren said the takeaway was how many mistakes the Wolfpack made in the win with four turnovers and 10 penalties.

Junior running back Tony Creecy said Doeren pointed out the mistakes but didn’t need to point out what would happen if they repeat those mistakes against Clemson.

“We know that,” Creecy said. “If we make those same mistakes, that game will end very ugly.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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