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LOVED IT, HATED IT : From NC State’s letdown in Death Valley

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Welp, that was a let down. After circling this game and waiting a full off-season for it, it’s over and it didn’t end the way we wanted it to. And honestly, I’ve got mixed emotions about it.

The realist in me says I should be happy we played it close, and we still can have an elite-level season. But the real me is pissed at a few things and knows we could have won this one.

I’ll get into the specifics in this week’s ‘Loved it, Hated it.’

LOVED IT

Wolfpack D came to play– All I heard for the first 4 weeks was Will Shipley this and Will Shiply that. Clemson’s version of Christian McCaffrey was supposed to cause all kinds of havoc for the Wolfpack in this game. Instead, Shipley turned in his worst game of the season, rushing 14 times for just 60 yards. The Pack’s defense was great, especially against Shipley. They were going to force DJ Uiagelelei to beat them, and he did (sort of). Uiagelelei threw for 209 yards and a touchdown, but the real damage he did was with his legs. He ran 14 times for 73 yards and 2 TDs. NC State’s secondary wasn’t bad either, and if it weren’t for Uiagelelei taking matters into his own hands, the Pack wins this one. The NC State defense came to play, they were dealing out some big hits and they were swarming to the ball. I loved it.

The Leary to Thomas connection – Devin Leary didn’t have a great night, but I’m not letting him take all the blame for that. When Leary had time, he was good. He threw some amazing balls in this one, threading the needle multiple times to Thayer Thomas. But it shouldn’t be this hard. For one, the NC State run game was nowhere to be found (we’ll get into that later), so Clemson’s D was able to sit back. Meanwhile, when Leary threw it, his receivers weren’t creating much separation, nor were they coming down with tough catches (most of the time). Clemson really needed to just focus on covering Thomas, and while they tried, they failed. Despite all of this, Leary connected with Thayer Thomas 9 times for 84 yards.

Christopher Dunn’s revenge– Yes, I’m using my last “Loving it” on the kicker. One reason is, there isn’t anything else I really LOVED, and two, Dunn had a horrific game last year vs Clemson. In this one he was 4 for 4 on the night. 2 extra points and 2 FG’s, the longest being a 49 yarder. Dunn was kicking in the biggest game in NC State history and trying to exorcize some demons of his own. Him being perfect on the night took a lot of focus and a lot of confidence.

HATED IT

The Play Calling – You had a full off-season to gameplan this one. You had 4 weeks of watching your opponent. And somehow Clemson was sitting on every running play and every screen you called. This was a real buzz-kill for me. I wanted to see the Pack get a little creative and show some wrinkles we hadn’t seen. I mean, it is the biggest game your program has ever had, right? Let’s throw it all at them, no?

Instead, we got more conservative play calling. Wake Forest had just brutalized Clemson’s depleted secondary a week before, so you’d have thought Leary was going to be trigger-happy throwing the ball downfield. Welp, it didn’t happen. State took a few shots downfield but didn’t really put enough pressure on Clemson in my opinion.

If you want to find that is extremely frustrating about this team, it’s with the offensive play calling. It’s obvious Dave is a defense-first coach. The offense plays like they are trying to just manage the game and not make mistakes while leaning on the defense. This works most of the time in the ACC, but if you want to get to that next level and really be competition for Clemson, you have to get a more aggressive approach on offense, especially when you have a talent like Leary behind center.

The Ground Game- This was the fear all off-season. NC State had proven vets at nearly every position, except running back. Jordan Houston isn’t bad and Demi Sumo had a lot of hype around him, but when you face a Top-10 defense, can these guys produce? Houston actually ran hard, hit holes fast, and did what he could. And while a lot of pundits are going to say NC State couldn’t get anything going on the ground, Jordan Houston actually ran 7 times for 32 yards. That’s good for 4.6 YPC. Now, his longest run was just 6 yards, but he only got 7 chances. Meanwhile, Sumo couldn’t get anything going. He ran 5 times for 10 yards (2 YPC). He was slow to the holes and was a little too indecisive against a defense this good.

The truth is, NC State’s RBs just didn’t scare Clemson at all. They were giving them no respect and they didn’t get burned for it. The inability to move the chains on the ground put it all on Leary to make plays, and while he did what he could, it wasn’t ever going to be enough.

Questionable Reffing– There weren’t that many bad calls, but the bad calls were REALLY bad and ended up really hurting the Pack. First off, NC State did themselves no favors with a ‘running into the kicker penalty that gave Clemson a new set of downs. But they were about to get the ball back with no harm done…until this happened (excuse the tweet language, not our account)

That’s not pass intereference. That’s nearly perfect defense. That led to 3 points, giving Clemson a 6-3 lead.

Then there was the Will Shipley touchdown fumble.

Now, that ball is not “out by a mile” like the tweet suggests, but this was a TD call that was reviewed and reversed, putting the ball back on the 1. But wait, did the refs just refuse to look at whether or not this ball was fumbled? Slow it all the way down and follow Shipley’s hands. It appears the ball is loose a split second before his left knee hits the ground. If this is ruled a fumble, NC State takes over, instead of the eventual TD that Clemson scored, giving them a 10-6 lead.

So, NC State loses by 10 and there are 10 questionable points on the board. Not going to blame the refs here, because the fumble was a close play and because NC State did themselves no favors, but without a doubt, as a State fan, I did hate these calls.

A pasta eatin', Wolfpack lovin' loudmouth from Raleigh by way of New Jersey. Jimmy V and Chuck Amato fanboy. All opinions are my own and you're gonna hear'em.

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travelwolf
travelwolf
1 year ago

I believe that the O-line couldn’t handle Clemson’s defensive line – which is why we couldn’t run. It was embarrassing how easily Clemson players went around the tackles during the slow-motion replays. Also, when our receivers tried to block, too many times, they did a poor job and the Clemson player got around them. This happened over and over. In this year’s prior games, I noticed that the receivers could make good blocks, but evidently there is a difference when you play against 4 and 5 star recruits vs Charleston or Texas Tech caliber players. I was actually happy that… Read more »

Papajohn
Papajohn
1 year ago

There was really only one problem, maybe two if you want to count officiating. Clemson’s NFL quality defensive line overwhelmed our offensive line. They were able to jam running plays and put pressure on Leary on pass plays with only three guys. On passing downs in particular, there were 8 guys in coverage. Why didn’t they call more running plays? Because on the 21 times we tried, we only got 34 yards. Either running has to open up passing for you, or passing has to loosen up the run blocking. Passing is the only thing that worked at all, and… Read more »

Dof87
Dof87
1 year ago

I’m not sure what play callling they could have done better with when the OL is getting bull rushed every play. Clemson was ready for all our screens so we should have abandoned those. Maybe some long balls in hopes of pass interference, but Leary never had time to wait for an open receiver to get downfield.

NC State Football

NC State’s Dylan McMahon was One of the Best Offensive Linemen at the NFL Combine

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NC State’s Dylan McMahon participated in the 2024 NFL Combine yesterday with the rest of the Offensive Linemen, and I don’t care where he is currently projected in mock drafts…McMahon was one of the best big fellas at the Combine.

McMahon ranked in the Top-10 in 4 of the 5 events, and in the Top-5 in 3 of them.

3-Cone – 7.26 seconds (2nd)
Shuttle – 4.33 seconds (2nd)
Broad Jump – 9’7″ (4th)
Vertical – 33.0″ (8th)
40 Yard Dash – 5.10 seconds (20)

Heading into yesterday’s activities, 28 Offensive Linemen had recorded a 4.47 second Shuttle Run since 2010. 24 of them went on to be drafted. All 24 of them went on to start 84% of their NFL games.

Yesterday, 6 Offensive Linemen joined the club, and McMahon was one of them.

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New Jersey Numbers to Get to Know on the NC State Football Roster

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There are a lot of new numbers with different last names above them on NC State’s Football roster. Whether it’s new players or players changing their jersey numbers, check out the new numbers on the NC State Football roster.

Changed Numbers

RS JR WR Jakolbe Baldwin – 32 –> 84

SR LB – Devon Betty – 26 –> 8

SO CB Brandon Cisse – 25 –> 2

RS JR WR Dacari Collins – 86 –> 4

RS SR DE Red Hibbler – 47 –> 4

RS JR RB Jordan Poole – 33 –> 3

SO RB Kendrick Raphael – 20 –> 0

New Player Numbers

FR WR Terrell Anderson – 80

FR QB Cedrick Bailey – 16

FR CB Jivan Baly – 22

FR S Brody Barnhardt – 29

FR DE Chase Bond – 92

FR CB Jimmar Boston – 21

FR NIC Asaad Brown Jr. – 26

SR CB Corey Coley – 6

RS FR NIC Tamarcus Cooley – 15

SR C Zeke Correll – 56

RS JR TE Dante Daniels – 87

RS SO OL Val Erickson – 54

JR WR Wesley Grimes – 6

FR WR Keenan Jackson – 82

JR TE Justin Joly – 15

FR RB Isiah Jones – 26

FR LB Cannon Lewis – 33

JR CB Devon Marshall – 16

FR OL Robby Martin – 50

SR QB Grayson McCall – 2

FR OL Trent Mitchell – 60

FR LB Joshua Ofor – 28

RS FR WR Noah Rogers – 5

FR RB Duke Scott – 24

RS FR RB Hollywood Smothers – 20

SR RB Jordan Waters – 7

FR LB Zane Williams – 35

JR LB Wyatt Wright – 25

FR WR Christian Zachary – 83

 

 

 

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NC State’s Brandon Cisse is Embracing the Competition for the Starting Job

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With Shyheim Battle headed to the NFL Draft, there is a starting Cornerback position open in NC State’s defense.

Sophomore Brandon Cisse believes competition brings out the best in everyone, and he recognizes it’s his time to step up.

“This year I have a lot more confidence. I trust my skillset a lot more. Stepping into a bigger role. Competing for the starting job,” said Cisse. “Everyday knowing my talent. This year, the biggest step is football IQ, knowing everyone’s job, and not just mine. I think that’s the biggest strength of my game.”

Earlier this week, Wolfpack Defensive Coordinator Tony Gibson said there is competition for starting roles all across the NC State defense, and one of those spots is at Cornerback across from Aydan White.

On Tuesday, when the media was allowed to view the first hour of practice, Cisse was running with the 1’s opposite of White. Now, who is running with the 1’s on the opening day of Spring Practice isn’t necessarily an accurate projection of who the staff thinks will start come September. I would expect that Maryland transfer Corey Coley is competing hard with Cisse for the job, but he just recently arrived on campus, and is new to the Wolfpacks defensive scheme.

With that being said, Gibson also mentioned that Cisse had 2 picks in 1-on-1’s one day this week.

“The good thing with Brandon (Cisse), is he’s very very smart. He played in our Dime package a year ago. He transitioned to Nickel sometimes midweek during practice. We felt good if we needed to use him in a game there,” said Gibson. “He’s very smart. He’s football savvy. He can play Corner. He can play Nickel. He can do a lot of things for us. The first two days watching him, he had a couple of picks in 1-on-1’s yesterday. Expecting big things out of him.”

As a prominent feature of the Wolfpack’s Dime package in 2023, Cisse played 148 snaps as a True Freshman, which speaks of how highly the coaches thought of him.

When asked this week if he was ever nervous about possibly being the next man up last season, from his perspective, he wouldn’t have flinched.

“I was never nervous. I was ready to step into that role,” said Cisse. “I was learning from those guys, but it wasn’t going to be a big change if I had to go in. I was confident in my game. I knew what I was capable of.”

Cisse knows he is in a competition for the starting job, but he is embracing the competition.

“Competition brings the best out of everybody. Everyday you don’t want to come in and have a bad day,” said Cisse. “Everyday you want to come and put your best play on tape. If you don’t want to play Coach Gibson’s brand of football, then you don’t want to play here.”

 

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With Players Transferring Back Home, Juice Vereen Believes NC State Has Something Special

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When players like Noah Rogers, Hollywood Smothers and Tamarcus Cooley transferred to NC State this offseason, from Ohio State, Oklahoma and Maryland respectively, according to Wolfpack Sophomore Tight End Juice Vereen, the 2023 recruiting class that was supposed to be, is now a reality.

“That was supposed to be the recruiting class in 2023 the first time. Noah (Rogers), Hollywood (Smothers), all these boys,” said Vereen. “To see them coming back, we’ve got something special…really, really special going on now. We’re looking to bring it all back.”

Despite the fact that these players from the state of North Carolina were spread out across the United States, the bond that was built over the years of high school didn’t waiver.

“I was always wanting to play with those boys. Now that I get to play with them, it feels special. We’ve all been bonded since high school. When everybody split their ways, we didn’t stop our communication,” said Vereen. “Now that they’re back, we are as tight as ever again. The bond never broke. Ever. I’m glad those boys came back and realized where home was.”

Rogers played for Rolesville, Smothers played for West Charlotte, and Vereen played for Havelock, but the best players across the state of North Carolina build relationships despite the distance.

“We all got connected through visits. Camps can do it too. I’ve been on camps with multiple of these players…Noah, Hollywood, Lex. Coming up here watching games together, sitting beside each other, getting to know each other a lot,” said Vereen. “That helped us out, leading to these boys making the decision to come back home. We pretty much knew they were going to after their Freshman seasons.”

One of the key components of a football team is the relationship the players share off the field, and according to Vereen, the players from the 2023 class are as tight as ever.

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