Oct. 9, 2001
North Carolina State’s improved defense has compensated for a sputtering offense this season. That defense will get its strongest test to date Saturday as the Wolfpack face Woodrow Dantzler and No. 16 Clemson.
The Wolfpack (3-1, 1-1 ACC) allowed 28 points and 375.5 yards per game last season in coach Chuck Amato’s first year. The poor defensive play was overshadowed by the proficiency of standout freshman quarterback Philip Rivers, who threw for 3,054 yards and 25 touchdowns to help the Wolfpack average 31 points.
This year, Amato’s defense has shown signs of improvement. North Carolina State has allowed just 15.5 points per game and 313.7 yards.
Linebacker Levar Fisher has made 41 tackles in the last two games, defensive end Corey Smith has forced six fumbles and the Wolfpack have forced 11 turnovers.
“It upsets so many people that we’re not averaging 64 points a game, and Philip is not throwing for 600 yards a game. But you know what, we’re still 3-1,” Amato said. “We have a bunch of youngsters (on defense) that will fight you.”
It will be a tough fight against Dantzler, Clemson’s do-everything quarterback. He led the Tigers (3-1, 1-1) to a wild 47-44 victory over then-No. 9 Georgia Tech on Sept. 29, accounting for 418 yards of total offense and three touchdowns.
Dantzler rushed for 164 yards and threw for 254 more before scoring the winning touchdown in overtime on an 11-yard run. His performance was a vindication of sorts after he threw three interceptions in a stunning 26-24 defeat to Virginia on Sept. 22.
“Put a cat in corner,” Dantzler said coming off the field, “and that’s when he’s most dangerous.”
Dantzler has accounted for 1,198 yards and eight touchdowns while completing 65.3 percent of his passes, leaving Amato noticeably concerned.
“Do you call Dantzler a tailback who throws the ball 25 times a game or a quarterback who runs the ball 25 times a game?” Amato asked. “He’s a Heisman Trophy candidate and rightfully so. He’s dangerous when he runs and dangerous when he throws.”
Dantzler accounted for 342 total yards and three touchdowns to lead Clemson to a 34-27 victory last season. The Tigers lead the all-time series 43-25-1, but the Wolfpack had won the previous two games before last season.
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