Tigers travel to NC State with Atlantic Division supremacy at stake
By the time Dave Doeren got to NC State in 2013, Dabo Swinney was in his third year of establishing the greatest era in Clemson football history.
The Tigers were coming off back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in 23 years at the time, including an 11-2 season in 2012. When the Tigers headed to Raleigh, N.C., for a Thursday night game, they were the No. 3-ranked team in the country.
The outmanned Wolfpack gave Clemson everything they had that night but the Tigers survived for a 26-14 victory. Clemson went on to another 11-2 record, while the ‘Pack finished 3-9 in Doeren’s first year. However, that game kind of set the tone for how the series has gone since Doeren’s arrival in Raleigh.
“We’ve played well against them and obviously we want to find a way to win this football game,” said Doeren, whose 20th-ranked Wolfpack host No. 4 Clemson on Saturday. “The guys will work their butts off to do that.”
In three of the four seasons Doeren has coached against Clemson (7-1, 5-1 ACC), NC State has played the Tigers as close as anyone else. With the exception of 2014, when the Tigers blew them out 41-0 at Death Valley, the ‘Pack has been just a play or two away from taking Clemson down.
Two years ago in Raleigh, Deshaun Watson outdueled Jacoby Brissett in a 56-41 Clemson win. Then of course there was last year’ dramatic 24-17 overtime win by the Tigers. NC State had an opportunity to win the game at the end of regulation, but kicker Kyle Bambard missed a 33-yard field goal wide right as time expired.
Watson hit Artavis Scott in the end zone in overtime and then cornerback Marcus Edmond intercepted Ryan Finley’s pass in the end zone on NC State’s first play of the extra period to end the game.
There is no reason to think this year’s game will not be like the last two, especially considering a berth in next month’s ACC Championship Game is at stake.
Clemson needs a win and then a victory over Florida State on Nov. 11 to secure the ACC’s Atlantic Division title, while NC State (6-2, 4-0 ACC) can do the same with a win over Clemson and then a victory in any of their remaining three conference games that follow.
“We’ve got a big challenge with NC State. This is a really, really good football team,” Swinney said. “That’s why it’s come down to these two teams in November. You’ve got two teams that are well-positioned to try to win the division, so it’s exciting to be a part of this type of game.
“This is playoff football…that’s what it really comes down to. It’ll be a big challenge heading up there.”