Notebook: Clemson leaves lasting mark with final score
Clemson put an exclamation point on its dominant victory by scoring a touchdown with 11 seconds left in the game, when Michael Dukes rushed in to make it 55-10. Clemson then had star middle linebacker James Skalski attempt the extra point, but he missed.
The Tigers reached into their bag of tricks in the second quarter when 6-4, 330-pound senior left guard John Simpson lined up at tailback and rushed in for a one-yard touchdown run with 4:30 left in the second quarter.
Some felt as though the Tigers may have been rubbing it in, but NC State head coach Dave Doeren wouldn't bite on questions about that topic during his post-game press conference.
“I don’t really have a lot to say about it, and [I'm] not sure if it was their thirds or fourths in the game,” Doeren said of the late touchdown. “We have to stop them and as a coach, you don’t like to see it happen.”
The back and forth was the latest between NC State and Clemson. Whether any of the past incidents led to CU head coach Dabo Swinney to push the envelope a bit Saturday, only he knows.
In 2013, Clemson offensive lineman Isaiah Battle punched NC State safety Jarvis Byrd during a game.
Current Wolfpack co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Des Kitchings gave a slight shove to loquacious quarterback Deshaun Watson out of bounds in 2015. The 2016 contest had ruffled feelings when Doeren’s comments about knocking out star Clemson running back Wayne Gallman were taken out of context by Tigers’ fans.
Former NCSU defensive end Bradley Chubb playfully messed around with the towel of Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant in 2017. The meeting was also marred by heated feelings over a laptop on the Tigers’ sideline. Clemson then used a picture of a laptop in the 2018 contest to signal in a play.
Toss in the two programs will sometimes clash on the recruiting trail, with no battle more heated then when Clemson beat out NC State for former Wake Forest (N.C.) High defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence.
Clemson’s antics Saturday were a reminder of what NC State did against East Carolina in a 58-3 win last December. NC State had star center Garrett Bradbury rush in for a touchdown, and allowed linebacker Germaine Pratt to return a punt.
Memories are long in college football, so a spicy retort will likely happen in the future.
“I’ve done the same things in the past [in other games] where you put the backups in and you want to play football,” Doeren said.
Doeren didn’t think morale was bad from the back-to-back losses against Wake Forest and Clemson, but rather the players were mad.
“These guys want to win and they are all frustrated,” Doeren said. “They understand at the same time they are playing with a short deck right now. They are playing hard, but not playing smart enough to win.”
Zonovan Knight Finally Busts Long Touchdown Run
One of the few bright spots for NC State was the healthy return of freshman running back Zonovan Knight.
The former Bailey (N.C.) Southern Nash High standout exited last week’s game against Wake Forest prematurely due to injury. He said he might not be 100 percent healthy, but he ripped off a long-awaited 53-yard touchdown run during the third quarter.
The game was out of hand by then, but Knight has flirted with hitting a “home run” in previous games, which is what he was known for in high school. His previous longest run this season was 26 yards at West Virginia.
“I feel all right, but I’m not satisfied because we lost,” Knight said. “Overall, I feel I could have done better, but I had a decent game.
“I feel good [injury-wise]. To be honest with you, I still didn’t feel like myself. With the brace, I just can’t full pick up my knees. I didn’t feel as fast that I normally do.”
Knight finished with 12 carries for 139 yards and one touchdown, and gave hope for the future in the ground game.
“I thought Bam ran really hard,” Doeren said. “I’m happy to see him bust a long run. I thought that play in particular, the stretch play was a good play for us.”
Knight was a key recruit in NC State’s class of 2019. The Rivals.com four-star prospect was the No. 21 running back in the country that year. Players like Knight have had bigger roles this season, which hopefully bodes well for NC State’s future. It just means a tough present day for the large group of freshman players.
“It is kind of tough to assess things with all the injuries,” Knight said. “We are having to play a lot more freshman.”
Injuries Continue To Pile Up
NC State entered the contest beat up with several key players out with injuries, and that only got worse Saturday. The list grew with starting redshirt junior left guard Joe Sculthorpe being announced as suspended for breaking team rules.
“We are down to no depth,” Doeren said. “We had three walk-on linebackers in at the end of the game. Guys are beat up right now.
“[Redshirt junior] Brock [Miller] was playing all three spots and then he got hurt in the game.”
Redshirt freshman outside linebacker Payton Wilson exited the game with a sprained shoulder, and sophomore cornerback De’Von Graves was also injured. Linebackers Isaiah Moore, a redshirt sophomore, and Louis Acceus, a junior, both missed the game with injuries, leaving the position thin. Freshman linebacker starter Drake Thomas got dinged up toward the end of the game.
Walk-on Alex Gray and freshman linebacker Jaylon Scott were getting time at the position toward the end.
NC State welcomed back senior cornerback Nick McCloud, who had missed seven straight games due to a knee injury. The return of McCloud counteracted the quick exit from Graves.
Junior starting cornerback Chris Ingram is done for the season after getting hurt in the sixth game. Third cornerback Teshaun Smith, who was starting for McCloud, has missed the last three games. Redshirt freshman reserve Taiyon Palmer suffered a season-ending injury for the second year in a row.
Sophomore nose tackle Alim McNeill also got banged up during the game, and the Wolfpack played without redshirt sophomore reserve defensive end Xavier Lyas and redshirt sophomore reserve safety Isaiah Stallings.
The absence of Sculthorpe led to freshman Dylan McMahon getting his first start at left guard. The offensive line was already missing fifth-year senior left tackle Tyrone Riley and redshirt junior right tackle Justin Witt.
Top blocking tight end Dylan Autenrieth is done for the season after he was hurt in the third game. Backup tight Dylan Parham has missed the last two games.
Rotational running back Ricky Person Jr. has missed the last four games, but he did go through pregame warmups.
Starting wide receiver C.J. Riley suffered a torn ACL covering a punt in the season opener, and is done for the season. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Thayer Thomas was limited Saturday due to a reported hamstring injury.