Following the Pack’s crushing defeat at the hands of Duke two weeks prior, the Clemson Tigers intended to stroll into Raleigh and take advantage of an injured NC State football squad.
The Wolfpack as a whole, led by Kevin Concepcion, had other ideas.
In the Wolfpack’s thrilling 24-17 victory over the Tigers (4-4, 2-4 ACC), the rookie wide receiver solidified his reputation by leading his team with 134 yards of total offense and two game-changing touchdowns. The Pack secured their sixth victory of the year by holding onto their lead for dear life and shutting down the Clemson attack during a crucial 14-point third quarter.
In front of a legendary program, head coach Dave Doeren and the Pack put on an intense show after blocking out two weeks’ worth of criticism, doubt, and noise.
“Super proud of our players and coaches and the faith that they showed in each other and what we just did against a good football team,” Doeren said. “Coming off of, in my opinion, the worst we played in my tenure as a head coach, to rebound like that says a lot about our perseverance and our toughness and our willingness to change and get better.”
The triumph equaled the program record of 77 wins set by former coach Earle Edwards and was Doeren’s 100th career win as a head coach.
“There’s been a lot of great players and good coaches and all of them deserve a piece of that,” Doeren said. “And so I’m proud of it. I’d like to own it singular and not tie, so I look forward to the next opportunity. But it is nice to get to 100.”
Concepcion willed Doeren’s 100th career victory to come to pass. With a combination of his lightning-fast reflexes, superb route running, and high football IQ, the rookie put NC State on his back, winning both of the team’s offensive touchdowns and finding big plays everywhere.
“Guy’s amazing,” Doeren said. “He’s playing inside receiver, outside receiver, running back. [We’re] motioning him all over the place. He’s running in stretch zones, counters, every route you can run on the book. His football IQ, for a guy his age, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Concepcion was a big part of the Pack’s advantage at halftime. He scored the game’s first touchdown on a wide-open 9-yard reception from sophomore quarterback MJ Morris, following a 50-yard run. With a touchdown of their own, Clemson responded, but NC State led 10–7 at the half.
The Pack needed its stars to keep stepping up after the break, and they most definitely did. Graduating linebacker Payton Wilson was ready to intercept a throw from Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik early in the third quarter. Wilson dove into the end zone and converted the fumble into a 15-yard pick-six.
There, the red and white didn’t end there. Despite an injury the freshman sustained at the end of the second quarter, Concepcion’s spectacular performance continued after the break, accounting for the majority of NC State’s yards already.
Concepcion carried it out. Shortly after his spectacular touchdown, Wilson outdid his defensive opponent with a 72-yard field goal. Concepcion lined up one-on-one with a Tiger defender, then used a slant cut to cut inside, break a tackle, and hit the jets.
Even before he crossed the 20-yard line, Carter-Finley Stadium was roaring, and the Tigers were reeling.
With a 17-point deficit, it seemed as though Clemson was surrendering to NC State. But on the opening play of the fourth quarter, the visitors blasted into the endzone. After two drives, Clemson entered Wolfpack territory and made a field goal to make the score 24–17, giving them ample time to finish the comeback.
With 4:23 remaining in the fourth quarter, Clemson had an opportunity to tie the score, but it required 92 yards to get to the end zone. Klubnik marched steadily forward to midfield, but the attack faltered. On Homecoming, the Wolfpack defense tightened up and forced an incompletion on 4th and 19 to seal the Textile Bowl victory.
Boykin, who had an interception early in the first quarter, was a major contributor to the Pack’s triumph in the turnover fight. In actuality, the Wolfpack reversed the course of events from its disastrous performance in Durham two weeks ago by playing a flawless game with only two penalties and no turnovers.
Doeren and his team needed guts and perseverance to come back, and the coach literally whispered the win into existence.
On Saturday, Nov. 4, the Wolfpack will make their way back to Carter-Finley Stadium to face the Miami Hurricanes, with the possibility of earning bowl eligibility at stake. It will kick off at 8 p.m.