NC State head coach Dave Doeren has the key to beating No. 3 Clemson. Don’t give up the explosive plays.
Obviously, that’s easier said than done.
In last week’s win at Boston College, the Tigers (6-0, 3-0 ACC) scored four touchdowns in 14 snaps in crushing the Eagles. The week before that against No. 7 Louisville, they scored five touchdowns in 12 snaps.
“You can’t give them explosive plays. You can’t live that way,” Doeren said during Wednesday’s ACC Coaches Teleconference with the media. “They’re outscoring their opponents 69-6 in the first quarter. They’re out of the gate fast and explosive, tremendously talented. You can have them defended, but their guys are good players.”
Doeren could have taken those numbers even further. Clemson is outscoring its opposition 140-26 in the opening half. In the last four games, the Tigers have outscored their opponents 117-13, an average of 29-3 in the first 30 minutes.
Given the fact Clemson is explosive on offense, and the defense is one of the best in the country, Doeren understands his team can’t go big-play for big-play against the Tigers like it did in last year’s 56-41 Clemson victory.
“For us, we’d love to score fast. The bottom line is that’s not easy to do on their defense,” he said. “We’re going to play as hard as we can. Biggest thing is we have to take care of the football. We can’t give them a short field.”
Doeren is right. He knows the opportunity to get big plays against Clemson’s defense are very limited as compared to last season. Last year, the Tigers ranked 117th in the country in plays over 20 yards, this year, they have allowed just 17 plays over 20 yards, the 10th best figure in the country to this point.
However, this was the game last season when Clemson’s deficiencies on the back end were exposed. Last year, the Wolfpack (4-1, 1-0 ACC) scored six touchdowns that needed just 21 total plays.
“Well, it helped last year. I think they’re a better defense this year than they were last year,” Doeren said. “They gave up a lot of big plays against a lot of people last year. So did we so I think both defenses have spent a lot of time in the off-season trying to shore those things up.”
It will be interesting to see which defense does a better job. NC State’s defense is ranked No. 8 nationally, while the Tigers are No. 9.
Clemson’s offense ranks No. 17 nationally in plays of 20-plus yards with 36 of them.
“We’ve got to make plays when we’re there like we have, we have to tackle well, make them earn what they get. You can’t give them anything,” Doeren said.
On the defensive side, the Tigers’ defense compliments the offense. The defense ranks in the top 10 in eight of the nine major defensive categories, including No. 6 in yards per play at 3.96. They’re also tied for sixth in the country in sacks (21) and third in tackles for loss (56).
“First of all, their personnel are really good. They’re aggressive in what they do schematically. Coach (Brent) Venables has always been that way,” Doeren said. “He gives you a lot of things from a look standpoint, coverage shell, different pressures, does a nice job of moving things. It can look like this, they’ll move, you have something else. He’s good with that.
“There’s no weak links. There’s 11 guys that are really, really good players that play hard and play in a good system.”