RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina State's defense spent spring practices and preseason training camp working against the team's new no-huddle offense. That should offer some preparation for third-ranked Clemson's fast-paced attack Thursday night.
First-year Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren spent the first months of his tenure installing the new offensive scheme, but his coaching staff has also pushed for players on both sides of the ball to work faster in everything they do. N.C. State (2-0) opened with a win against no-huddle offense Louisiana Tech, but hasn't faced anything as fast as Clemson's attack yet.
"Our defensive kids had to face our offense all through spring, all through camps," Doeren said Monday. "We're very similar in a lot of things we do. ... You can't simulate exactly how fast they're going to be going with your scout team guys. But I do think being a no-huddle team does prepare your defense better for those matchups."
The Tigers (2-0) averaged 45 points and nearly 490 yards in their wins against highly ranked Georgia and South Carolina State behind star quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins. But it's their go-go-go pace that puts the most stress on defensive players, wearing them down and giving them little time to adjust to the Tigers' calls.
Clemson ran 76 plays in the 38-35 win against Georgia to open the season, then ran 95 plays in the 52-13 win against S.C. State on Sept. 7. And the Tigers are eager to keep pushing the pace.
"We have had some really good practices over the last 10 days," Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. "We pushed them and taxed them in some areas and they responded and that was good to see."
The pace has been a factor in the past two meetings between the Atlantic Coast Conference division foes. Two years ago, N.C. State upset then-No. 7 Clemson 37-13 by forcing four turnovers that kept sending the Tigers' offense back to the sideline. The Tigers ran 69 plays, below their season average of 75 snaps per game.
Clemson won last year's shootout with N.C. State in Death Valley, running 102 plays in a 62-48 win.
By comparison, N.C. State ran 87 plays in the opening win against Louisiana Tech despite losing starting quarterback Brandon Mitchell to a foot injury on the third series, then 76 plays in a 23-21 win against Richmond on Sept. 7.
Senior linebacker Zach Gentry said the defense is hoping to minimize the Tigers' big plays - runs of at least 10 yards and passing plays of at least 20 yards - and keep Boyd in the pocket. And if the defense can get enough stops to get the ball back for the offense, maybe the Wolfpack's fast-tempo attack can put some pressure on the Tigers' defense.
Regardless, Gentry knows slowing the Tigers will be a big challenge.
"I wouldn't say intimidation," Gentry said of facing Clemson's offense. "I think we'll play harder because we know how good they are. The schemes we have drawn up for them are really good. Our preparation has been a lot more thorough, too, so I'm looking forward to it."