Kendall Joseph jumped up in an attempt to block the kick, and once he fell to the ground after his effort, he stayed there and didn’t look up.
It wasn’t until he heard the roar of the crowd that he realized N.C. State kicker Kyle Bambard missed a game-winning field goal try, a pivotal error that helped third-ranked Clemson to a 24-17 win last Saturday.
“We gave it our best effort, and I kind of fell when I was going so hard, and I just laid on the ground,” Joseph said of the play on Tuesday. “I didn’t look, and I just laid there for a while, and then I heard our fans cheering. It was a big relief, and it was awesome for us.”
After watching film, though, that relief turned into dissatisfaction at the defense’s inability to stop N.C. State’s offense in a critical situation.
With the game tied and a little more than six minutes left on the clock, N.C. State took possession at its own 29-yard line.
The Wolfpack slowly but surely made their way down the field, going 55 yards on 14 plays while draining 6:39 off the clock and preventing the Tigers from getting the ball back before the end of regulation.
N.C. State maneuvered to Clemson’s 16-yard line and was in chip-shot field-goal territory, but Bambard’s 33-yard attempt went wide right.
Joseph said the defense feels the kick should have never occurred.
“We look at it and take it as a point where the defense really didn’t do their job in getting off the field,” said Joseph, Clemson’s leading tackler with 65 total tackles this season at MIKE linebacker. “We should have gotten off the field and not allowed (the field-goal attempt) to happen, so that’s how we’re looking at it.
“I guess we do have a blessing on us, but we work hard for those moments. But really the defense took it as man, they just drove down on their own will, and we should have been able to get a stop. So, that’s how we looked at it.”
N.C. State converted three third downs during the final drive, including a backbreaking third-and-1 with under a minute to play after Clemson used its second timeout.
N.C. State running back Matthew Dayes — who picked up the first down to allow the Wolfpack to run out most of the time remaining before the field-goal attempt — carried the ball nine times on the drive for 33 yards.
Overall, the ACC’s third-leading rusher ran for 106 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, marking the first running back to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark against Clemson since Derrick Henry ran for 158 yards in the national title game last season.
“He’s a great running back,” Joseph said. “He was just finding little holes here and there. We’ve already watched it, we’ve already corrected it in practice yesterday, so we just want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
That is easier said than it will be to do when Clemson resumes play against No. 15 Florida State next Saturday in Tallahassee.
Florida State star running back Dalvin Cook leads the ACC with 900 yards rushing on 159 attempts (5.7 yard average) and has seven touchdowns.
“He’s an excellent talent, very explosive, very fast, and that will be the best running back I’ve played against besides Wayne Gallman who I see every day,” Joseph said. “Playing against him, I’m really excited about it, and we’re looking forward to the challenge. Our goal is to dominate and shut him down, so that’s what we want to do.”
Joseph said the Seminoles are similar to N.C. State in the way they run the ball.
“They love stretch plays, they love toss plays and getting on the edge and giving (Cook) the ability to cut back if he needs to or just find holes off his linemen,” Joseph said. “His linemen running up and getting on the defense’s face, and not sitting back. So, they do the same things.”
N.C. State took the fight to Clemson at the end of Saturday’s game.
The Tigers are determined not to let that happen again at Florida State.
“We know Florida State is going to be ready,” Joseph said. “They don’t want us to win, they don’t want us to succeed, so it’s up to his to go up there and impose our will on them.”