There are a lot of things Clemson does not want to remember about last year’s 24-17 overtime win over NC State.
For starters, the Tigers turned the football over five times, including four times in the red zone. One turnover was an interception return for a touchdown, the only one in Deshaun Watson’s college career.
NC State kicker Kyle Bambard missed three field goals, including one from 33 yards out as time expired that could have given the Wolfpack an upset victory over then No. 3 Clemson. That was a little too close for comfort for the Tigers’ liking.
However, the one thing they have not forgotten about, which played a major role in how the game was played, was the injury to Wayne Gallman.
The Clemson running back was knocked out, literally, by NC State nickel back Dravious Wright. The blow happened on a screen pass to Gallman on a second-and-one play from the NC State 42. Gallman took the screen and zigzagged up the field for 18 yards before Wright delivered a vicious hit on the Clemson running back.
Gallman eventually up got from a hit that was borderline legal and stumbled back to the sideline. He was diagnosed with a concussion and did not return. Clemson was fortunate to win the game without him.
However, during Dave Doeren’s Coach’s Show following the game, it was learned knocking Gallman out of the game was part of the game plan. Or at least that’s the way it came across.
When asked on the show if the Wolfpack did the things they needed to do to win the game, Doeren said, “Yeah we did, you know, I mean we knocked their tailback out of the game. We had two goal line stands, four takeaways, didn’t give up explosive plays.”
So how surprised was Clemson to hear that from another head coach.
“It is surprising to hear a coach say something like that, but that is the nature of this sport, I guess,” defensive end Austin Bryant said. “It’s a physical game and it definitely helps a team when one of their best players isn’t playing, but we are not looking for that as motivation.”
Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant, who sprained his ankle earlier this year, said hearing Doeren say that was hard to comprehend and he did not have much to say about the comment. Knowing that the Wolfpack has a reputation for playing physical and maybe playing dirty, he can’t worry if NC State is intentionally trying to get him out of the game.
“I’m going to try and watch myself as much as possible, but I’m not going to try and focus on what they are going to try and do,” he said. “Whether they are trying to take me out of the game, I can’t focus on that.
“When you do that, then you start worrying about other things other than the game and executing the calls. I don’t pay too much attention to that.”
Though he did not say who or what team, Bryant admitted he has had people go at his legs a couple of times, but he isn’t sure if they were intentional or not.
“I don’t think anyone was trying to take me out,” he said.
Clemson linebacker Dorian O’Daniel does remember hearing about Doeren’s comments but it’s not something they are going to worry about or use as motivation to get ready for this week’s game against NC State.
“If that was their game plan, then so be it,” O’Daniel said. “Different teams are going to have different points of emphasis.”
O’Daniel said it has never been his goal or defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ goal to intentionally try and take another player out of a game.
“If anything, it is to limit guys, not knock them out or to cause harm or anything like that,” he said. “If you can eliminate a guy within the rules, then obviously that is an advantage, but never to knock a guy out intentionally or for any bad intentions or anything like that…
“…Every school has a culture and every head coach is different. I can’t really speak on his behalf because I don’t know how he is as a coach or how he is. I’m sure he is a great coach, but as far as his mindset for that, I don’t know too much about it.”