CLEMSON — A day late, but definitely not a dollar short, for our weekly visit with an opposing team’s beat writer.
Joe Gigilo, who writes for the Raleigh News and Observer and Charlotte Observer, is today’s extraordinaire dishing on North Carolina State. No. 3 Clemson takes on the Wolfpack Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN, and as always, we’ll host a live game blog throughout the evening on PostandCourier.com.
Aaron Brenner, Tiger Tracks: It seemed like coach Dave Doeren and both NC State players at ACC Media Days carried a swagger about them. Has that been sustained into mid-September?
Joe Giglio, News and Observer: There’s definitely a new-found confidence among the players. That was more apparent in the opener, a 40-14 win over Louisiana Tech, than the last game, a 23-21 comeback win over Richmond, but I think overall the players have been energized by Doeren and the new coaching staff.
Brenner: Really tough luck with the quarterback battle being decided by an injury. What does the Wolfpack expect out of Pete Thomas?
Giglio: Arkansas transfer Brandon Mitchell was the clear-cut winner in August. He looked about as good as you could expect a fifth-year transfer in a new situation for two series. And then he broke a bone in his left foot.
Thomas has not been able to run the offense in rhythm the same way Mitchell did. He holds the ball too long and he’s not a threat to run the ball like Mitchell. That’s why freshman Bryant Shirreffs has been used to run the read option.
Brenner: How would you describe State’s offensive system, and how it might try to replicate last year’s 48-point outburst at Clemson?
Giglio: N.C. State uses a lot of the same plays and formations as Clemson, with a little more emphasis on running the football. Doeren likes to say his offense is a combination of Oregon’s and Wisconsin’s.
I don’t think State will score 48 again or even the 37 from the win in 2011.
Brenner: On the flip side, what’s this year’s Pack got to do to not let Tajh Boyd and company rack up 62 points?
Giglio: The secondary was terrible in last year’s game at Clemson. They didn’t have much help in front of them, either, from the linebackers. The win at Carter-Finley Stadium in 2011 was all about the pressure N.C. State’s front seven was able to put on Boyd, who without Sammy Watkins, wasn’t very good in that game.
Brenner: Would you say the 2011 Clemson upset or 2012 Florida State upset applies more when evaluating NC State’s chances of a shocker Thursday night?
Giglio: The win over FSU last year was a bigger surprise than the win over Clemson in 2011 and this would qualify as a bigger shock, and win, than both. N.C. State is in rebuilding mode with a new coach and without an NFL quarterback for the first time in six years.