Raleigh, NC (Sports Network) - Coming off a bye, the third-ranked Clemson
Tigers invade Raleigh this week for their ACC-opener against the NC State
Dabo Swinney's squad has looked every bit the part of a conference favorite
thus far. Behind the play of its All-American quarterback, Clemson stands at
2-0 on the young season, opening the 2013 campaign with a thrilling 38-35
victory over SEC power Georgia, followed by a much easier blasting of FCS foe
South Carolina State (52-13).
Dave Doeren was lured away from Northern Illinois after a couple of successful
seasons with the Huskies. His first season with NC State has started off on
the right foot, with two wins in as many games. They have come in vastly
different ways, as the season-opener was a lopsided 40-14 victory over
Louisiana Tech, followed by a 23-21 close call against FCS foe Richmond.
In a series that dates all the way back to 1899, Clemson holds a 52-28-1
advantage all-time, including an 18-16 mark in Raleigh. The Tigers had won a
series-best seven straight games prior to NC State's 37-13 upset in 2011. Last
season, Clemson clinched its first double-digit win campaign since 1981, with
a 62-48 shootout victory over NC State in Death Valley.
After years of offensive proficiency, it is safe to call Clemson's attack a
juggernaut. Over the last few seasons, a lot of that has to do with the play
of quarterback Tajh Boyd. The senior gun slinger is off to another strong
start, completing just over 60 percent of his throws over the first two games,
for 439 yards and three touchdowns, adding another three scores on the ground.
Boyd does not do it alone, and will look early and often to former All-
American wideout Sammy Watkins. The junior receiver had a down year in 2012,
but has started the 2013 season strong, with nine receptions, for 146 yards
and one TD. The play of Watkins on the outside will be even more vital going
forward as second-leading receiver Charone Peake (eight catches, 84 yards, one
TD) suffered a torn ACL in practice last week and is lost for the season.
"This is a big loss, Charone was having a great year and was going to have a
great year," said Swinney. "We are thin at receiver with just six scholarship
players now. We like to carry 10 at that position. We have good players, but
we don't have a lot of bodies."
Picking up the slack for the lack of depth in the passing game is a rushing
attack that has generated 190.0 yards per game thus far. Leading the charge in
that regard is tailback Roderick McDowell, who is netting 5.8 yards per carry
and 87.5 yards per game.
Clemson's defense has played second fiddle to the offense for some time now
and early indications are that that will continue in 2013. The Tigers are
yielding just under 400 yards per game, although the numbers are skewed a bit
considering Georgia's success in the opener.
Linebacker play is the real catalyst for the Clemson defense and both Spencer
Shuey and Anthony Stephone have been all over the field in the early going.
Shuey leads the team with 23 total tackles, while Stephone is a close second
with 21 stops.
Overall, Clemson has recorded 17 TFL, seven sacks and three interceptions in
the first two games.
The injury bug has already hit the NC State offense, as starting quarterback
Brandon Mitchell went down in the season-opener. Doeren has a backup plan in
Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas, who will now lead NC State's balanced
attack for the foreseeable future. The Wolfpack are averaging 212.5 ypg on the
ground and 280.5 ypg through the air.
Thomas has completed a solid 67.2 percent of his throws for 449 yards, but he
has yet to throw a touchdown pass and has three interceptions to his credit.
The receiving duo of Marquez Valdes-Scant (12 catches, 174 yards) and Rashard
Smith (12 catches, 145 yards) will certainly pay dividends along the way.
After two games, it is NC State's defense that has shown the most consistency.
The Wolfpack are allowing 17.5 ppg and have a particular penchant for stopping
the run (79.5 ypg). NC State has yet to record an interception, but has posted
six fumble recoveries thus far.
Senior linebacker Robert Caldwell has led the way on the defensive side of the
ball with his team-high 18 tackles. Safety Hakim Jones is second on the squad
with 12 stops, followed closely by fellow defensive backs Jarvis Byrd and
Juston Burriss, who have 10 tackles each.
The Sports Network