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September 19, 2013
NC State redshirt sophomore cornerback Juston Burris treats every game with the same focus, but that doesn't mean he has forgotten what happened last year.
Burris had one of his best plays of the season a year ago, but also remembers how explosive Clemson's hurry-up spread offense can be when clicking no all cylinders, which was the case for all but part of a quarter against the Wolfpack.
Burris intercepted Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd's deep ball and returned it 36 yards to the Clemson 34-yard line during the back-and-forth first-half action. The Wolfpack went on to make a field goal and take 24-13 lead, which proved to be their largest of the game.
"That definitely helped my confidence that you can go and pick off a guy like Tajh Boyd, who is going to be a first-round draft pick," Burris said. "That's all the game is at cornerback, confidence. You lose your confidence as a corner, that's your game right there."
Clemson roared back and outscored NCSU 49-24 over the majority of the last three quarters. Sammy Watkins led the Tigers with 11 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown, but the Wolfpack held DeAndre Hopkins to two receptions for 75 and a 62-yard score. Clemson had four touchdowns of at least 27 yards.
Burris remembers the track meet in Clemson pretty vividly.
"They are a fast and have pretty good skill players, but they are a good team," Burris said. "You don't get [No. 3] in the nation for no reason. We aren't worried about that and we'll play our own game."
Watkins and Boyd are back, but Hopkins left a year early to the NFL, and tight end Brandon Ford and running back Andre Ellington are also gone from the Tigers' offense.
"We aren't worried about Sammy Watkins or Martavis Bryant (who caught a 40-yard score last year) because we are going to just go out and play," Burris said. "They are definitely NFL-type wide receivers [Watkins, Hopkins], and DeAndre is already in the NFL [with Houston Texans] and he is making a name for himself there. Sammy Watkins will be there soon."
Burris is looking forward to having this year's game be held on the big stage — Thursday night on ESPN.
"That is primetime right there," Burris said. "I remember my senior year of high school, we played Cincinnati on a Thursday. Just the atmosphere of coming to that game, and obviously while being at State I haven't been able to see the game as a student, but seeing that game in that atmosphere and limelight, it makes you love the game of football and love being here at State."
Burris was the first verbal commitment to NC State in the class of 2011. The former Raleigh Broughton High standout selected the Wolfpack on March 22, 2010, but that didn't mean his recruiting activity came to a close.
Burris admitted that Clemson made a late run at him when Cortez Davis was waffling on his commitment. The Tigers offered Burris, but then Davis eventually solidified his CU commitment. Davis, a former Rivals250 member has since left Clemson, while Burris is poised to be a three-year starting cornerback for the Wolfpack.
"They showed interest early on and then I didn't get my offer until late when the corner they had decommitted for Florida State and then recommitted back to Clemson," Burris said. "I got that offer during that time period. I had a good relationship with them.
"Clemson is a big offer but I always knew I was coming to State."
Burris also has a reminder of the business of college football across the field Thursday night. He enjoyed learning from former NC State defensive backs coach Mike Reed, who made the move to Clemson after former coach Tom O'Brien was fired.
"Coach Reed recruited me and that's my coach, but in-between the lines, he's not my coach anymore," Burris said. "I can't be buddy-buddy with him, but after the game I'll give him a big hug. I haven't seen him in a while. I want to shut these receivers down and show him."
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