NC State’s Bradley Chubb was the first of a school-record seven players off the 2017 Wolfpack roster chosen in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Chubb was selected No. 5 overall by the Denver Broncos, one of four starters from last year’s defensive line that were selected by the 128th pick of the draft.
So, when people wonder why NC State has given No. 3 Clemson fits the last couple of years, there is their answer.
“I think they were only second to Alabama in draft picks last year,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said while chuckling during Wednesday’s ACC Coaches Teleconference call with the media. “They have been really good.”
In the last two years, No. 15 NC State, who will visit Death Valley for a 3:30 p.m., kick on Saturday, has played the Tigers to two seven-point games. In both cases, the Wolfpack had opportunities to change the outcome.
In 2016, kicker Kyle Bambard missed on a 33-yard field goal attempt as time expired that would have won the game for NC State. The Tigers went on to win in overtime.
Clemson had several opportunities that afternoon to put that game away as it had three red zone opportunities that it did not score on, turning the ball over on all three occasions. One turnover was fumbled inside the 10 by Mike Williams and returned 50-plus yards to set up an NC State score.
The Wolfpack also got a pick-six near the Clemson goal line, the only pick-six thrown in Deshaun Watson’s college career.
Last season, the Wolfpack was driving for a possible game-tying touchdown and looked to have it when quarterback Ryan Finley found running back Jaylen Samuels wide open down the middle of the field. However, Clemson safety K’Von Wallace smacked Samuels hard and jarred the football loose for an incomplete pass.
On the game’s final play, Wallace intercepted Finley’s pass to the end zone to seal Clemson’s victory.
“Both teams have a lot of respect for each other,” Swinney said. “We have good players and they have good players. It has been just a really competitive game. We have been fortunate to find a way to win, but last year’s game came down to a special teams’ play. We had a punt return for a touchdown and it ended up being the difference in the game.”
The punt return was a 77-yard return by former Tiger Ray-Ray McCloud, who is now playing for the Buffalo Bills in the NFL. That was Clemson’s first score of the day and tied the game at 7 at the time.
The Tigers also got an 89-yard touchdown run by running back Tavien Feaster in the fourth quarter, which turned out to be the winning score.
“It is just a combination (of things) that when you play games like this there is not a lot of room for error,” Swinney said. “I don’t doubt that Saturday will be another very competitive game.
“They are 5-0 and we are 6-0 and we are division rivals, and both want the same thing. I think both teams will put their best foot forward.”