“You have a senior quarterback that does that and all of sudden you have to ask
three freshmen offensive linemen to respond,” Bowden said. “All of sudden something
bad has happened and you’ve been on the field one play and you are already down.”
But soon after that, the Clemson coach got what he expected from his fifth-year
senior quarterback: a touchdown pass.
Harper responded to Nate Irving’s 33-yard interception return for a touchdown, buy
guiding the Tigers on a 9-play, 76-yard drive, which he capped with a 16-yard
touchdown pass to Jacoby Ford. Clemson never lost the lead again as Harper finished
the day 20-of-28 for 262 yards and two scores, while the Tigers got an important
27-9 victory to open ACC play in Death Valley.
“He is a fifth-year senior and you would hope that he would do that, but you never
know,” Bowden said. “I don’t think he has ever started a game like that so I was
real pleased with his performance.”
Like their quarterback, the rest of the Tigers also fought through adversity.
offensive line, which appeared shaky at times Saturday in running the football,
especially with freshmen Landon Walker (right tackle), David Smith (left guard) and
Mason Cloy (right guard) starting up front, came through in the fourth quarter by
opening up running lanes for running back C.J. Spiller in an eight minute and seven
second drive to seal the win.
Wide receiver Jacoby Ford, who fans have waited on patiently to burst onto the
scene, caught six passes for 106 yards, while rushing for another 48 more. And then
there was the defense, which had been lit up for more than 400 yards of offense in
each of the first two games, held N.C. State out of the end zone and to just 288
“We came out there and we moved the ball and the defense did a good job,” said
Harper, who also had a nice 28-yard touchdown pass to Spiller in the second quarter.
“It got us started in the right direction and it is something positive for us moving
Things did not look so positive for Clemson (2-1, 1-0 ACC) when the Wolfpack moved
the football twice inside the Tigers 10 in the third quarter. Trailing just 17-6 at
the time, N.C. State had two excellent chances to gain control of the game. But both
times the defense rose the occasion, stopping the Wolfpack on third down to force
Josh Czajkowski field goal attempts.
Czajkowski missed the first field goal attempt and later connected on a 22-yard kick
to make the score 17-9 with 1:01 to play in the third. N.C. State running back Andre
Brown did most of that damage – rushing for 64 yards and catching a team-high four
passes for 51 yards.
“We were never worried,” Clemson defensive back Chris Chancellor said. “But it was
frustrating. They kept doing that zone play and were averaging at least five or six
yards a play. We were frustrated about that, but Coach Vic (Koenning) is a great
coach and we knew he would pull it together.”
The Tigers finally pulled it together when Crezdon Butler intercepted a Russell Wilson
pass at the Clemson four with 9:28 to play in the game. At the time, Clemson was
ahead by only 11 points, 20-9, after a Mark Buchholz 31-yard field goal with 13:21
After the Butler interception, Clemson went on a drive of all drives, with a
13-play, 96-yard march, which Spiller capped with a 12-yard run off the left side.
In all, the drive ate up 8:07 off the clock, and left the Wolfpack with 81 seconds
“We made a statement with that drive,” right guard Mason Cloy said, one of the three
freshmen up front. “We dominated and took the game over. It’s a big confidence
builder for us.”
And for their head coach.
“That’s what good teams should be able to do,” Bowden said. “I thought C.J. ran with
an attitude and obviously the line did a pretty good job. That’s something you
eventually need to do in order to be a really good team.”