Earlier this week, Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said they will do as much as they can to emulate what the noise will be like at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina Saturday, when the No. 9 Tigers visit NC State for a 3:30 p.m. kick.
Carter-Finley, which holds close to 60,000, is expected to be packed as the Tigers and Wolfpack renew one of the ACC’s oldest rivalries. When it is packed, NC State’s home venue can be as intimidating as any stadium in the conference.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney enjoys going to Raleigh, though. The first time he went to Carter-Finley was when he was an assistant coach at Alabama in 1996. That year, the eighth-ranked Crimson Tide barely escaped with a 24-19 win.
“I have always felt like it was an excellent college venue,” Swinney said Thursday on Off Campus with Mark Packer on ESPNU Radio. “Again, their fans do a great job. They are very passionate there. They show up whether they are a great team or they are a team that is struggling or whatever. They are always there. They are incredibly supportive. We have had some battles there for sure.”
The Tigers’ last loss to NC State came in Raleigh, as the Wolfpack stunned No. 7 Clemson that afternoon in 2011, 37-13.
“I just have a lot of respect for everything about NC State. I think it is a great place,” Swinney said.
The Tigers (2-1, 1-0 ACC) have not lost to NC State since, winning eight straight in the series, including four straight at Carter-Finley. In all, Clemson has won 15 of the last 16 games in the series and are 7-1 at NC State during that stretch.
But those wins in Raleigh have not been easy ones. In 2013, the Tigers escaped Carter-Finley with a 26-14 win. Two years later, Deshaun Watson and the Clemson offense had to outscore the ‘Pack, 56-41, to leave with a win and the 2017 game came down to a K’Von Wallace interception at the goal line to seal the 38-31 victory.
This year, the Tigers might be the No. 9 ranked team in the country, but they are not playing like it. They survived a scare from Georgia Tech at home last week and they come into this ACC clash struggling on offense.
With a young and inexperienced offensive line, the Clemson coaches are concerned with the noise and how it might affect the offense’s execution.
“We will challenge those guys to just focus in on what we can control,” Elliott said. “At the end of the day, whether the stands are empty or full, it does not matter. If we know what we are doing and we are all on the same page and we take care of our business, we can tune all of that other stuff out.”
In the end, Swinney says this is the first opportunity for the Tigers to show what they are all about. Playing in a true road game is a different feel than playing at home or at a neutral site venue. It is an opportunity for the team to block all of the outside noise out and just come together as a team.
“I like going on the road, period,” Swinney said. “I have always enjoyed that and looked forward to that. I think it is just a great challenge when you go into a hostile situation where everybody is not cheering for you.
“You love the home games, as well. It starts there. You have to be a great home team. But if you are going to be any type of program of significance, you have to win on the road. We have been a great road team over the last decade, but I think you have to embrace it.”
Clemson has won 15 of its last 16 true road games, including 12 straight against current full-time members from the ACC.