Clemson-NC State Preview
Clemson began the season with an impressive win over a top 5 team, had no issues dispatching an FCS opponent a week later and now is hoping a little rest didn't slow its high-octane offense heading into its ACC opener.
Considering what happened the last time the third-ranked Tigers faced North Carolina State, that shouldn't be a problem.
Tajh Boyd set a conference record with eight total touchdowns in a wild offensive showcase when he faced the Wolfpack 10 months ago, a dazzling display new N.C. State coach Dave Doeren doesn't want to see again Thursday night in Raleigh.
Boyd totaled 312 yards of offense and five TDs in Clemson's 38-35 win over then-No. 5 Georgia on Aug. 31, then was only needed for a half in a 52-13 rout of South Carolina State on Sept. 7.
The Heisman hype for the senior quarterback may have kicked up after his performance against the Bulldogs, but it was set up in the second half of last season. Boyd threw five touchdowns passes three times in four weeks, including his video game-like numbers against N.C. State on Nov. 17.
All of those TD passes came after Clemson (2-0) trailed 24-13 in the second quarter. Boyd helped the Tigers rattle off the next 42 points, finishing with 426 passing yards while totaling a career-high 103 yards and three scores on the ground in a 62-48 victory.
Clemson had 10 plays of 20 or more yards in the final three quarters, something Doeren - who was in the midst of leading Northern Illinois to its second straight MAC title at the time - is set on preventing.
"First thing you've got to do is not give up big plays," Doeren said. "You have to contend routes and tackle well in space. We've got to shed blocks and get more people to the ball. But they are going to make plays. ... To win the football game, they can't be explosive plays that lead to points."
From Clemson coach Dabo Swinney's standpoint, there are areas of concern even against a team his offense torched for 754 yards - two off a school record - when they last met. Boyd threw two interceptions without a touchdown and the Tigers were held to 34 yards on 28 rushing attempts when they last visited Raleigh in a 37-13 loss Nov. 19, 2011.
The last time the No. 3 team in the nation played at Carter-Finley Stadium also went poorly for the visitor. N.C. State (2-0) pulled a 17-16 upset of Florida State on Oct. 6 after trailing by 13 after three quarters.
"It's a very difficult place to play," Swinney said. "Our last experience up there was not good. We played one of our worst games of the year that year, and we won the league. It was a very disappointing night.
Two of Clemson's four turnovers came inside its own 20.
"That's a recipe for disaster," Swinney said.
The Tigers are hoping they don't have to say the same about the loss of one of their biggest weapons. Junior wide receiver Charone Peake, the starter opposite All-American Sammy Watkins, suffered a torn ACL in a non-contact drill in practice during Clemson's bye week.
Junior Adam Humphries will start in Peake's place.
"This is a big loss. Charone was having a great year and was going to have a great year," Swinney said.
N.C. State put up 597 yards of total offense last season at Clemson, but 493 came through the air from Mike Glennon - the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' third-round pick.
The Wolfpack's less-experienced 2013 offense is much more of a work in progress. Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas has thrown three picks without a touchdown in his first two starts, and N.C. State's leading rusher (Matt Dayes) and receiver (Marquez Valdes-Scantling) are both true freshmen.
Doeren's team overcame four turnovers to beat FCS program Richmond 23-21 on Sept. 7 after trailing by double digits.
"Coach always preaches you have to be able to handle adversity," Thomas said. "It's not what happens to you, it is how you come back. I feel like our team handled adversity very well."
Boyd didn't handle hostile atmospheres well in his first full season as a starter, going 2-3 on the road with seven touchdowns and seven INTs while averaging just 6.3 yards per attempt in 2011.
Last season was a different story. Boyd threw for 16 TDs with five picks while going 3-1 on the road, picking up 10.2 yards per throw while posting a 184.7 passer rating - both the best in the nation.