After being outscored 89-34 in their last two games, the NC State Wolfpack (4-4, 1-3) enter week 11 on a sour note. The Pack were overpowered on the road by both Boston College and Wake Forest, and they now return to Raleigh to face their toughest matchup of the season. The young and inexperienced Wolfpack will be tasked with finding a way to regroup against the fifth-ranked Clemson Tigers (9-0, 6-0).
NC State Trying To Regroup Against Clemson
Even though the Wolfpack are in a slump on both sides of the ball, a game of this magnitude can wake up a team. Head coach Dave Doeren is expecting his team to battle and leave everything they have on the field this Saturday against the defending national champions.
“I know anything can happen on a Saturday,” Doeren said in his weekly press conference. “That’s why you put the ball down and play. We have nothing to lose in this football game. Just go play as hard as we can, be better than we were a week before, finish plays better than a week before. Anything can happen, and that has to be our mindset.”
Getting Back To Fundamentals
For NC State, it’s not about who they are facing, but it’s about getting back to the fundamentals. This can be achieved by simply executing the game plan, making tackles, finishing blocks, and making the easy catches.
“It’s really fundamentals,” said Doeren. “Executing as 11 guys at the same time. It’s catching, blocking, finishing. One more step on a block, getting your hand inside versus outside. How you leverage the football, how you tackle.”
This has been a problem all season long, and Doeren has referred to it as the Wolfpack missing their ‘layups’. If they hope to have any chance against the Tigers, these mistakes will have to be cleaned up. It will take a nearly perfect game from NC State if they are to pull the upset.
If there is something encouraging about this game for NC State, it would be the fact that the Wolfpack are 4-0 at home this season. However, the Pack has yet to face off against a team of Clemson’s caliber. Nevertheless, the Wolfpack should receive a significant boost from the home faithful, and they will need all the help they can get from their fans. A good example of this home-field advantage is when the Pack hosted fourth-ranked Clemson in 2017. The home crowd played a pivotal role, and the Wolfpack fought the Tigers until the end, before ultimately losing 38-31. Even if they don’t pull off the upset, expect the electric nighttime atmosphere in Carter-Finley Stadium to fire up the struggling Wolfpack.
“It’s a night-game opportunity against a tremendous team,” Doeren said. It’s what you play for, to play against such a good team, such a well-coached team, and to do it at home in a night environment at the Carter. It’s been awesome to have those types of games. I know we’ll have a tremendous crowd.”
The Wolfpack have had their fair share of success in night-games at home against high-quality opponents. Including 2010, when the Wolfpack upset the #16 Florida State Seminoles, 28-24. They would go on to repeat this in 2012 when they upset the then third-ranked Seminoles, 17-16. And just two years ago, the Wolfpack defeated Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and the #17 Louisville Cardinals, 39-25.
The Big Picture
Although the 2019 season has been very disappointing up to this point, NC State fans should be looking at the big picture. After all, the Wolfpack have been decimated by injuries, which has caused their young, inexperienced players to fill in. There has been some major growing pains along the way, and there will probably be some more, but this playing time is vital to the development of this young football team.
“When you’re playing the second-most freshmen in the country and you’re seeing Drake Thomas get better, Payton Wilson get better, Josh[ua] Harris, Savion Jackson, Bam [Knight]…that’s exciting,” said Doeren. “I’ve been through this. We went through it when [Bradley] Chubb and [Jerod] Fernandez were freshmen. It was a pain, but they all ended up being really good players for us because they went through it.”
“I’m very optimistic, and we’ll remain that way,” Doeren went on to say. “We recruited two very good classes back to back that are now being forced into, not just playing time, but very important roles on our football team. It’s unique, but it’s awesome for the future of our program.”
You can catch the Wolfpack against the Tigers this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on ABC. The game will also be streaming live on the ESPN app.