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Revenge: Tigers take on Wolfpack in top-10 matchup

Natalie Folsom, Provided by The Technician

NC State junior safety Tanner Ingle (10) goes to tackle Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei (5) in the game on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 in Carter-Finley Stadium. The Wolfpack beat the Tigers in overtime 27-21. Ingle had a total of 7 tackles.

Clemson’s matchup with NC State on Saturday isn’t just any old football game — it’s a premier matchup between two of the top teams in the ACC with a deep-rooted history.
After winning eight consecutive games against NC State dating back to 2012, the Tigers fell to the Wolfpack last year in a double-overtime game on the road — a loss that pushed Clemson back to No. 25 and essentially out of College Football Playoff contention. 
Now both 4-0 on the 2022 season, No. 5 Clemson and No. 10 NC State are two of four undefeated teams in the Atlantic Division, adding to the significance of this game of each team’s aspirations to make the ACC Championship game.  
Clemson is coming off a thrilling 51-45 victory over Wake Forest last week, in which the Tigers’ offense produced its most points since 2020. 
In last week’s six-point victory, quarterback DJ Uiagalelei led the way for the Tigers, completing 63.4% of his passes for 371 yards and five touchdowns.
His performance was far more productive than how he played against NC State last year when the Tigers fell 27-21, and Uiagalelei completed 42.6% of his passes for 111 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
As an offense, the Tigers only had 10 first downs in last year’s matchup, so the junior signal-caller doesn’t want a repeat performance of 2021.
“The biggest thing I remember is losing the game — I remember how I felt,” Uiagalelei said. “I definitely felt like there were a lot of plays that I left out there and that I wish I had back.” 
Along with Uiagalelei, sophomore running back Will Shipley wasn’t pleased with the team’s performance last year. 
“Going into it, I felt like we were not fully prepared mentally and physically,” Shipley said. “This year, it’s different. We’re going into it and giving ourselves the best hand to do our thing.” 
Leading the team in rushing yards this year, Shipley is hoping the offense can perform at the same level as it did against Wake Forest.  
“Coming into this top-10 matchup in (Death) Valley, it’s something that we’re looking forward to,” Shipley added. “It’s been a really, really good matchup the last couple of years, with the exception of one or two (games). We just have to take the momentum from last week as an offense, as a team, and just build off of that.” 
While Uiagalelei and Shipley struggled against the Wolfpack in 2021, their head coach, Dabo Swinney, has had tremendous success in his career. He is 10-2 against NC State since he took over as the full-time head coach in 2009.
Still, Swinney isn’t taking the highly ranked Wolfpack lightly.
“I think they’ve always been good,” Swinney said. “We’ve won a lot of games, but they’ve all been tough games. I think NC State has always been a really tough opponent.”
Uiagalelei and the Tigers’ offense are coming off their best performance of the season yet, but there is pressure on Clemson’s defense to contain an NC State offense that is scoring 36.0 points per game this season.
Down multiple starters who were out with injury last week, Clemson’s secondary had difficulty defending Wake Forest’s passing offense — a theme that Swinney is hoping ends against the Wolfpack.
“That’s what a windshield mentality is all about. You can’t worry about what happened last week, good or bad,” Swinney said. “You don’t carry any points over, and you don’t carry any bad players over either unless you let them carry over. You got to move on in this game.”
Swinney added that he is unsure if some of the injured players will return this week, including safety Andrew Mukuba and cornerback Sheridan Jones.  
Regardless of who suits up in the back-seven, NC State quarterback Devin Leary and the NC State passing offense won’t hold back from airing it out.
“You look at their offense, and they’re complete,” Swinney said. “They have a really good offensive line that’s played a lot of football and one of the best quarterbacks in the country — I mean, he is special.”
When Leary isn’t letting the ball fly to his receivers, Clemson will have its hands full against the Wolfpack’s running attack, which is averaging 157.5 rushing yards per game. 
As the Tigers look to start 5-0 on the year, the game between the two teams will kick off in Memorial Stadium at 7:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday. 
“This is what a top-10 game should look like,” Swinney said. “You got two really talented teams. It’s a very experienced football team that we’re getting ready to play.”

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