By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
NC State is expecting a capacity crowd of 57, 583 people when No. 3 Clemson comes calling Thursday night at Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.
The atmosphere will be electric and the student body at NC State, which sits directly behind Clemson’s bench, will be loud and into the game all night as they hope to get into the Tigers’ heads. What does this all mean? It means, anytime the Tigers come to town it is a big game.
“We have a great history and great traditions as a program, but I think (this type of game) comes with what we are doing as a program,” Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd said Tuesday. “I don’t think if we were ranked forty-seventh or something like that, then I don’t think it would be as big of a game.
“But, again, that’s credit to what we are trying to do as a program. We continue to make strides every year. For us, every game is a big game. For every opponent, we are a big game for them as well.”
The Wolfpack, who have beaten Louisiana Tech and Richmond to start the season, will love nothing more than to knock off a top 10 opponent at home for the third straight season. In 2011, NC State beat No. 7 Clemson, 37-13, and last year they knocked off No. 3 Florida State, 17-16.
Boyd says the Tigers (2-0) welcome being the hunted as they open up play in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“You have to love it,” he said. “I love seeking things out as well, but when you go out there and you are the one being hunted, and then you are the one that gets to eat, it makes it that much better. I’m excited for it.”
The Tigers have eaten a lot of those who have been hunting them lately. Clemson has won 10 straight games against unranked competition—NC State is not ranked this week—dating back to the game against the Wolfpack in 2011.
“I think we just have a great team and we are a little more mature now then we were then,” wide receiver Sammy Watkins said. “We are a team that listens and understands the game of football. We can come back from adversity.
“Georgia got up on us a few times and we still kept playing and we ultimately got control of the game in the third and fourth quarter. I don’t think it has anything to do with our ability to play, but more about our experience. We are going out there to play and have fun and listen to what our coaches are telling us to do.”
That approach has been working well for Clemson since that day in November of 2011. In road games against Boston College, Wake Forest and Duke last season, the so-called experts kept calling for the Tigers’ demise, saying, “This will be the week when Clemson will pull a Clemson.”
When the Tigers went up to Wake Forest for a Thursday night game last season, all the people at ESPN and across the country talked about how this was the game Clemson was going to mess up. Five touchdown passes by Boyd before halftime and the Tigers shut everyone up in a 42-13 victory.
Then all the talk started again as they prepared to go to Duke. Clemson again responded with a 56-20 victory against the best team Duke had fielded in 23 years. And the game was not even that close.
“I think you have to perform to your capabilities,” Boyd said. “I think we have everything we need as a program. We have ridiculously high caliber players, coaches that are the best in the country and everything we need as a program.
“If we do what we are supposed to do, to our best abilities, then we should be fine. It does cause a little bit more pressure because you have to perform at such a high level week in and week out. But dams are not built without pressure. That’s how we kind of view it and where we want to go as a program.”
In its last 10 games against non-ranked opponents, Clemson is averaging 48 points per game, while yielding only 21.1 points with an average margin of victory of 26.3.
“I think our guys learned from that process (two years ago) that the season always starts tomorrow,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Put everything you got into this game. This is the biggest game of the year, period! It’s not the one you already played. It’s not the one we are going to play. This is the biggest game of the year.
“That mentality has finally kind of crept into our team… If you can have that you have a chance to have a very consistent team and program and at the end of the year you can be in the mix.”