Clemson Tigers Player of the Week: North Carolina State Wolfpack
Perhaps the most glorious phrase uttered in college football this weekend is that of Gus Johnson during Big Noon’s Saturday kick-off match between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Irish Combatant of Notre Dame. Johnson was discussing the famous Irish head coaches in light of Brian Kelly’s opportunity to achieve his all-time leadership place in program history. The first came from Lou Houltz. Then Frank Leahy and finally the legendary Knute Rockne, the benchmark of Irish football. Johnson praised the figure’s success and then, as he prepared to return to action, quoted Rockne with the words:
“A loss is good for the soul, too many losses are not good for the coach.”
The Irish won the game 41-13 thanks to an impressive 30-point performance in the fourth quarter, but what stuck out later today is that very phrase. It seems so obvious, and yet it is very important to the success of the team. Losing a game will not strip a team of its character or aspirations, nor even strive to win a national championship for that matter. Rather, it can serve as a learning experience and fuel the fire for the future.
Clemson’s loss to Georgia a few weeks ago didn’t need to be a nail in the coffin for this team by any means. Eleven games edged out a schedule that had one of college football’s best freshmen and defensive backs, but now, after falling to 2-2 in a double loss to NC State, it’s gone. All gone.
The Tigers’ fate of reaching the CCA Conference Championship game hinges on the balance of another team for the first time since 2014 – the beginning of the college football playoff era.
Heck, it would only be human to want to focus on both the kid and the longtime leader, but of course those two privileges evaporated as Clemson’s playoff hopes dwindled.
Everything that could go wrong went wrong on Saturday. This team has no identity like we have never seen in years under the Swinney era.
There were certainly a few names from Saturday’s duel that deserve some recognition, but frankly it’s a terrible weekend for Clemson football nonetheless.
Clemson Offense: WR Justyn Ross
If Clemson fans were hoping this season was a return tour of Justyn Ross, then there is good news about Saturday’s results after all. The Tigers’ top receiver and weapon had a streak of eight receptions for 77 yards and two touchdowns, including his team’s final points of the game in first overtime. His performance is a major improvement over the results in Week 1-3, in which he recorded 14 combined receptions for 139 and one TD.
Remember: this is the same guy who had spine surgery and missed an entire season of play. Maybe he won’t be perfect 24/7, but Today’s statistics show an impressive setting for October 2021.
Honorable mention: RB Will Shipley
Clemson Defense: LB Baylon Spector
The overall score itself at first glance does not hold up against the defensive results of Weeks 1-3. 27 obviously qualifies as a higher number than 10, 7, and 8 combined, but that total includes two drives that NC State moved into at Clemson 25 in overtime.
The Tigers have made little regulatory move – despite allowing a high total for the season – thanks to an overall effort against arguably the best opposing offense of the season so far. Among the top dogs were Baylon Spector, Andrew Mukuba, RJ Mickens and LaVonta Bentley.
Spector gets the highest recognition this week in light of his leading 19 tackle performance. The magic number has qualified as the unequivocal highest in the senior linebacker’s tenure with the Tigers. He also recorded 65 tackles last year as well as 4.5 sacks.
Honorable mention: S Andrew Mukuba
Clemson Special Teams: P Will Spiers
The day someone does something in special teams other than Will Spiers will be the day when I can finally show a sign of real exhilaration regarding Clemson football this year.
Seriously, I’m running out of photos for this guy. My worry at this point has little to do with the Clemson special teams per se, but rather how I’m going to find a way to endure another week of this. Anyone, anyone, please make AN interesting game. I promise you that your face will be featured on this article in return.
Eight punters for 342 yards, zero field goals and no return kicks or putts worthy of spinning the climax. Clemson has really – although not as important as a concern for the offense – lost all consciousness by lining up a suitable position group ready to come up with a few unexpected game-changing salaries.
Honorable mention: none
North Carolina State Player of the Week: QB Devin Leary
It took four weeks for a quarterback to appear on the board, and that quarterback still isn’t DJ Uiagalelei. Rather, it’s Devin Leary, the caller from NC State.
Despite the arduous task of facing Clemson’s almost immobile defense, Leary was the man of the day with 32 completed passes on 44 throws for 238 yards and four touchdowns. He hit receivers Emeka Emezie, Devin Carter and Thayer Thomas for scores in the Wolfpack victory.
Honorable mention: Emeka Emezie
Today’s general lesson: Things can always get worse.
The Tigers gave up on a crucial clash instead of a relentless loss to Georgia just a few weeks ago. If they had won today, Clemson’s journey would still have had a probable chance of winning the ACC title. This dream is not (yet) over, but the Tigers need help, and they need it from the conference’s most unlikely enemies.
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