NC State is as close to a true rival as anyone Clemson plays not named South Carolina.
First off, the Wolfpack has recently defeated the Tigers. Secondly, the two have played some classic games through the years, and, what every rivalry needs, there has been some bad blood.
It is safe to say these two teams do not like each other. It is safe to say the two fanbases do not get along, either.
This is the true definition of a rivalry.
Last year, after NC State snapped the Tigers’ eight-game win streak in the series with a 27-21 double overtime win, its head coach came on the ACC Huddle postgame show on the ACC Network smoking a cigar and drinking an adult-beverage from a red solo cup.
“We got a cigar right here. We got a solo cup,” said Dave Doeren as they brought him on camera following the game.
Before Doeren lit up his victory cigar, NC State’s fans rushed the field after knocking off then No. 9 Clemson. In the midst of all the commotion, a couple of the Tigers got into it with a few Wolfpack fans that got in their face and exchanged some nice pleasantries.
The bad blood between the Tigers and Wolfpack goes all the way back to the Frank Howard days when Clemson painted its shoes orange prior to the 1967 game to show up an NC State team that featured a nationally-ranked defense that had worn white shoes during the season. Back then, almost every team wore black shoes.
Following the Tigers’ 1982 win at NC State, Danny Ford accused Wolfpack head coach Monte Kiffin of turning Clemson into NCAA investigators for possible recruiting violations. Their postgame handshake was anything but friendly or sportsmanlike.
“Ain’t no telling what I said after the game,” Ford said to reporters afterward. “But if I said it, I said it.”
From 1986-88, Dick Sheridan’s NC State teams knocked off the Tigers three straight years, including two years when Clemson was ranked inside the top 10 and considered a serious contender in the national championship race.
In 2000 and 2001, Woody Dantzler and Phillip Rivers squared off in some classic matchups, where both put up huge numbers. In 2012, Tajh Boyd and Mike Glennon combined for more than 1,000 yards of total offense in a 62-48 shootout at Death Valley.
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These days, the bad blood between the two programs has been even more prevalent than ever before. Ever since Doeren arrived at NC State in 2013, the intensity of the rivalry has picked up.
In 2015, former NC State assistant Des Kitchings pushed Deshaun Watson after he ran out of bounds. In 2016, Clemson running back Wayne Gallman was knocked out of the game following a hit by NC State’s Dravious Wright.
The following day on his coaches show, Doeren made it sound like knocking Gallman out of the game was part of the game plan.
“I mean we knocked their tailback out of the game,” he said when asked if the ‘Pack did all they could to win the game.
It got crazy in 2017, as NC State defensive lineman Bradley Chubb kept stealing Kelly Bryant’s hand towel and then Doren accused Clemson of cheating after someone showed him a picture of a laptop on the Clemson sideline.
It turned out, it was just a member of Clemson’s social media team working.
“I want to launch an investigation, too,” Swinney said a few days later. “What do they do with those towels? Is it a towel wall of fame?”
The next year, Clemson trolled the Wolfpack when its offensive coaches threw up a caricature of a laptop on their play cards.
“We had a lot of fun. It was a little subtle,” Swinney said later.
The rivalry got cold in 2019 when Doeren gave what was reported as a “frosty” post-game handshake after Swinney sent linebacker James Skalski out to kick an extra point following Clemson’s last touchdown in a 55-10 victory.
Then, of course, Doeren celebrated his lone win over Clemson last year with a big cigar and drinking whatever he had in that red solo cup.
There is no telling what might happen Saturday night at Memorial Stadium, especially considering it is the first matchup between the two rivals as AP top 10 teams.
Odds are, something will happen. It’s Clemson vs. NC State. They just don’t like each other.