Posted by Chip Patterson
NC STATE WON. The Wolfpack put themselves in a tough position needing back-to-back victories over No. 7 Clemson and Maryland in order to reach bowl eligibility, but on Saturday they kept those hopes alive by stunning the Tigers 37-13 in Raleigh. Head coach Tom O'Brien got a Gatorade shower on the sideline as the team celebrated his first victory over Clemson, the program's first in Raleigh since 2003.
HOW NC STATE WON: Tom O'Brien and the NC State coaching staff had a gameplan for the high-powered Tigers, and they executed it to perfection for four quarters. Defensive coordinator Mike Archer no doubt saw the way Wake Forest frustrated Tajh Boyd with multiple looks, and the Wolfpack were on their toes, swarming to make plays all over the field. Two forced fumbles in the first half resulted in scores, with another touchdown coming thanks to a big punt return from T.J. Graham. By the time Clemson woke up from their sleepy start, NC State was out to a 24-3 lead in the second quarter. The lead made the Tigers one-dimensional, and NC State's defensive backs delivered a pair of second half interceptions to help shut down Clemson drives.
WHEN NC STATE WON: This ball game ended at some point during NC State's five-score second quarter. Fumbles from Tajh Boyd and Mike Bellamy turned into scores, and Clemson's inability to move the ball down the field made life easy for NC State quarterback Mike Glennon. The Tigers put together come-from-behind victories against Maryland and Wake Forest this season, but down 27-3 at halftime it did not feel like Clemson had a chance to get back in the game.
WHAT NC STATE WON: Bowl eligibility seemed like a pipe dream after the disappointing 14-10 loss to Boston College. The Wolfpack offense had only produced 23 combined points in their last three contests, so keeping up with Clemson seemed like a daunting task. But Saturday was just a matter of NC State wanting the win more. They game in well-prepared and executed their gameplan for sixty minutes. It was an impressive performance in all aspects of the game, and NC State fans should feel good about their chances next week against a struggling Maryland squad.
WHAT CLEMSON LOST: All of their momentum heading into a pivotal three game stretch. Clemson has fallen behind in four of their last five games, including the two losses. Their Top 10 ranking in the BCS standings put them in a position to possibly earn a BCS bowl bid even with a loss in the ACC Championship Game. Now they will likely fall too far down the standings to earn a BCS bid any other way than claiming the conference's spot in the Orange Bowl. This game was expected to be a test of Clemson's focus, and the young Tigers squad failed their examination.
THAT WAS CRAZY: NC State did not just stun the conference by upsetting the Atlantic Division champs, but they also did some damage to the ACC record book. Cornerback David Amerson tied Dre Bly's single-season interception record with his 11th pick in the third quarter, and wide receiver T.J. Graham broke the ACC career record for kickoff return yards. Not a bad day for a pair of NC State's stars.
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