Fans on the message boards and twitter were looking for moral victories before the game when they talked about the Wolfpack keeping it competitive with the Tigers. However, the team was having none of that. They expected to do more than just compete with the No. 3 team in the nation and wanted to get the win.
"We're not here for moral victories," redshirt junior quarterback Pete Thomas said. "We didn't make enough plays tonight to win and it's very disappointing. I'm disappointed in myself.
"We knew we could hang with them. We expected to beat them, we didn't do it. I agree with coach, there are no moral victories. We expected to beat them, but we didn't do it. We want to win every game we play in and we believe we can win every game we play in."
Thomas refused to put the blame on anybody else but himself.
"We were right there," he said. "We had them right where we wanted. We didn't make enough plays. I didn't make enough plays and it starts with me.
"We didn't finish and it starts with me. I wish I could've made more plays for our offense. We were moving the ball, we just didn't finish, which is very disappointing."
Although the defense preformed admirably and limited the high-powered Clemson offense to 26 points, senior cornerback Dontae Johnson said the defense also needed to shoulder some of the blame.
"One thing we really thrive on as a defense is forcing turnovers, we were unable to do that today and it showed," he said. "It really hurt our offense; our offense really builds momentum when we force turnovers. That put them in a tough spot. As a defensive unit, we've got to do better."
Head coach Dave Doeren said that he felt the game did reveal one important trait about his squad.
"One thing that I think is that our kids are very tough," he said. "I think the one thing we've got to do better is not beat ourselves. We don't have a lot of depth. We played a lot of young guys. Rob Crisp was out of the lineup, so it was our third O-line set. We were playing with our backup quarterback and our third different offensive line and we battled against a very good defense.
"We played our butts off. It just wasn't enough tonight, unfortunately. They're a good football team and they'll probably win a bunch more games. The thing we'll do is not let it beat us twice."
Injuries pile up
NC State entered Thursday night knowing that starting fullback Logan Winkles was out for the year and fifth-year senior quarterback Brandon Mitchell was still on the shelf as he recovers from a broken foot. Senior left tackle Rob Crisp was also unavailable for the contest after he appeared in the injury report released earlier this week.
However, the injuries didn't stop there. Starting defensive end Darryl Cato-Bishop and starting cornerback Juston Burris both went down during the game and did not return. Several others, like true freshman receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling were hobbled late during the contest and the Pack is not a team with much depth to begin with.
"It hurts when when you lose a starter period," head coach Dave Doeren said. "Our next guy will come in and play his best, but we were down defensively...we were running out of bodies there at the end."
Clemson went right at Burris' replacement on a pair of second-half touchdown throws, but the team wants to utilize that as a learning experience.
"That's what most teams do," senior cornerback Dontae Johnson noted. "They see a starter go down, they're going to see if the next man is ready. Granted, there were some great plays and great results for them, but it was terrible for us. We've just got to learn better. We've got to make sure the next man is ready to go and that's for every position. Injuries can occur at any time, we just have to make sure everyone is locked in and ready to go because they can be called on at any time."
Sophomore running back Shadrach Thornton was suspended for game one and then was limited to one muffed kickoff return in Richmond game. He didn't receive a ton of chances on Thursday night, but he did make the most of his two touches.
The Pack were deep in their own territory during the second quarter when he broke a 32-yard pass reception. Five plays later, he broke a powerful 21-yard touchdown run where he dragged defenders into the end zone. It marked the Pack's first score and Thornton's first rush of the game.
Fans have been clamoring for a heavy dose of Thornton after an impressive rookie campaign and the positive results after two touches against Clemson.
"He was in there some and just some of the plays we had, the way that we read them, he just didn't get the ball," Doeren noted. "Obviously the wheel route was big. Shad improved from last week to this week. Last week, he put the ball on the ground and that's a no-no with me, but he was better this week and he'll continue to improve, work his way back into the lineup for some more reps.
"Part of the problem was we couldn't run the ball up the middle very well, our run game was outside and that's really not his forte."
Fan support strong
A lot was made of Doeren's crowd comments following game one, but he was sure to commend the fans for an electric atmosphere on Thursday night for ESPN's national television audience.
"I appreciate our fans and our students for coming out the way they did tonight and supporting us," he said. "It was a special evening that way for my first Thursday night game, and it everything as advertised. I'm very, very thankful for the fan base, it meant a lot."
"We got to give credit to our fans, the fan base here is amazing, especially on a Thursday night game," Johnson added. "That was the big motivation right there - Thursday night game, No. 3 Clemson University is coming into town. It's one of those things you live to play in, a lot of our guys were excited about the game. We just enjoyed the moment, unfortunately it just didn't turn out in our favor."