N.C. State coach Dave Doeren was asked Monday if the game against Clemson this week would be the biggest in school history.
Doeren demurred on that one, agreeing it would probably be the biggest in his 10 years as the Wolfpack coach.
“But as far as the history, that’s a long time,” Doeren said in his weekly news conference.
That the Wolfpack is ranked 10th nationally and the Tigers fifth in the AP poll adds credence to the “biggest ever” claim. The game Saturday at Clemson has all the earmarks of a big one, with ESPN’s “College GameDay” crew in town and the game at night, under the lights, and being shown nationally by ABC.
Not that Doeren wants his players caught up in such things — linebacker Drake Thomas calls it the “noise” — through the week leading up to the ACC showdown.
“One of things I talked to the team about was to enjoy the moment,” Doeren said Monday. “Enjoy the stage and enjoy the opportunity that’s in front of you. But that’s not what this week’s about. This week’s about winning a game. And how do you win a game? By having the best Tuesday practice of the season, then getting the right food in your body and having good treatment, going to class, getting rest, having a great Wednesday.
“We have to stack things on top of each other all week. We have to win the game way before the game is played, with our players and our staff. That’s what we’re focusing on. Don’t spend your time on your phone reading about how great the game’s going to be. ... I think the guys understand there (are) a lot of things that can get you distracted in a week like this.”
Hurricane Ian could change a lot of things this week. The path of the storm could take it toward South Carolina and create havoc come Saturday. Doeren said NCSU is consulting with a meteorologist ahead of traveling to Clemson and has contingency plans.
“We’ll be prepared ... and hopefully it won’t be one of those things that has the devastation that comes with it, either,” he said.
But back to the historical aspects of the Pack-Tigers football game, also known as the “Textile Bowl” …
The Pack has been undefeated and ranked 12th three times in the past 33 years heading into its game at Clemson — 1989, 1991 and then 2002. The Wolfpack was beaten in the first two games, then romped to a big victory in 2002 in an ESPN Thursday night game, N.C. State’s last win in Death Valley.
But those with longer memories might say the biggest game in N.C. State’s football history was played in 1967 — at Penn State. The Pack was 8-0 and third in the AP poll, its highest ranking ever, before a 13-8 victory by the Nittany Lions built on a late goal-line stand.
Deflated by the loss, the Wolfpack was beaten again the next week — at Clemson. The 14-6 defeat knocked the Pack out of the top 10 and cost N.C. State an ACC title as the Tigers finished 6-0 and the Wolfpack 5-1.
The Pack has had some tasty wins over the Tigers in Raleigh. Last year’s 27-21 victory in double overtime became an instant classic, ending an eight-game losing streak in the series. There also have been big disappointments, including the 38-31 loss in 2017 when the Pack was ranked 20th and the Tigers were sixth.
Here are some memorable moments from State’s games at Clemson:
NC State 38, Clemson 6
Oct. 24, 2002
The No. 12 Pack was 8-0 after squeaking out a tight win against Duke but had no problems with the Tigers. T.A. McLendon rushed for 178 yards and two scores, and the Wolfpack forced five Clemson turnovers. The Pack’s Terrence Holt recovered a fumble, picked off a pass and returned a blocked punt for a TD.
Clemson 29, NC State 19
Oct. 20, 1991
The Pack was ranked 12th and the Tigers 19th, and Clemson coach Ken Hatfield had a surprise for his team. After the Tigers warmed up in traditional orange uniforms, they were given special purple uniforms to wear in the game. The Tigers were inspired as Clemson took a 23-7 halftime lead against a Wolfpack team that was No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense.
Clemson 30, NC State 10
Oct. 21, 1989
The Pack had won its first four ACC games and was 6-0 overall but was smacked in Death Valley. N.C. State, which was third nationally in turnover ratio, had five turnovers in the game. The Tigers led 17-0 at the half.
NC State 16, Clemson 13
Oct. 27, 1979
The Pack would have to beat Duke in the final game of the regular season to clinch the ACC championship, but the title essentially was decided three weeks earlier at Clemson. The Wolfpack defense staged a goal-line stand late in the game to edge the Tigers. Woodrow Wilson’s 54-yard punt return had set up Nathan Ritter for a 25-yard field goal that was the difference.
“As we were driving away after the game, we looked out the bus window and saw Clemson fans give us a standing ovation,” Ritter told The N&O in 2017. “It was just a special day.”