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Wolfpack still has much to accomplish

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NC State Notebook

North Carolina State had ample reason to lament its loss at Notre Dame over the weekend. The Wolfpack also has enough at stake to focus ahead.

No. 6 Clemson will roll into Raleigh for a Saturday showdown with control of the Atlantic Division on the line. A win for N.C. State, which dropped from 14th to 20th in The Associated Press Top 25, would put the Pack in the driver’s seat for the program’s first appearance in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game.

Any hope of a berth in the College Football Playoff now is out the window.

The Irish shrugged off a slow start to pull away in the second half behind a solid running game led by Josh Adams and a defense that allowed only one offensive touchdown to Wolfpack.

“We blocked a punt for a touchdown and got some good momentum,” N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren said of Germaine Pratt’s end-zone recovery to give the Wolfpack an early lead.

“Over the course of the game, losing some rotation on our defensive front hurt. I didn’t feel like we did enough things to get off the field. (We) got a lot of third-and-ones and not third-and-longs.”

Doeren, who has preached daily focus since the spring, was not overly flustered by the margin of deficit at the end of the game.

While the Wolfpack lost comfortably, the game was in reach in his opinion and it is lack of execution that ultimately cost the Wolfpack.

“It was a one-possession game for a lot of the game and there’s one, two or three plays you have to make and we didn’t as we had in earlier games this year,” Doeren said. “It just wasn’t good enough, and I think there’s a lot of positives in the game.

“We played very well on special teams. We were plus-95 in hidden yardage. Our coaches, our players, all of us were frustrated and mad. (We) felt like we didn’t play as well, coach as well, as we can. It gives us a great opportunity to improve this week against another top 10 team in Clemson.”

AT STAKE FOR CLEMSON

As for the Tigers, a loss to Syracuse but them on the back foot in the Atlantic Division but a win over N.C. State will mean Clemson seizes control of the standings with only a victory in its next game at home versus a Florida State team in free fall in the way of a return to the ACC title game.

Clemson has Doeren’s attention.

“Clemson is a 7-1 football team with the No. 1 defense in the ACC, second in scoring defense, second in rushing, first in pass, first in total, first in sacks,” Doeren said. (It’s a) really good defensive team that we’re playing. Offensively they are fourth, scoring 32 points a game, very balanced — 200-plus in both categories. They have a very fast tailback and excellent receiving corp and Kelly Bryant is completing 67 percent of his passes.

“Great challenge, a game that our players are excited to play in and we’ve played well against them. We want to find a way to win this football game and our guys will work their butts off to do that.”

NO LOOKING BACK

To be successful, the Wolfpack will have to avoid looking back.

The loss to Notre Dame is not the only game N.C. State has to forget. Last season’s crushing defeat to the Tigers in Death Valley will also have to stay out of the rear-view mirror.

“They absolutely remember it, but it’s not last year so all that is going to do is serve for how much they want to win it this year,” Doeren said. “They are two different teams. We had several players that aren’t on our team anymore, and the guys who played remember it well. I’m sure their players do too. It was a great game.”

“I asked (the team Sunday) where do you think we’re at and they said we’re in first place and we control our own destiny,” Doeren added. ”That was a good sign. They know we’re playing for a lot still.”

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