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The most positive thing to come out of an otherwise dismal night at Carter-FInley Stadium was the running of Zonivan Knight. Even though the freshman was admittedly not 100 percent because of a knee injury aggrivated last week at Wake Forest -- saying that he "felt a little slower" because of the brace he was wearing -- the true freshman still rushed for 139 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown against the fifth-ranked Tigers. In the process, he broke off two long runs, a 44-yarder late in the first half and a 53-yard burst for State's only touchdown in which he pulled away from those chasing him early in the third quarter. Knight leads the Wolfpack with 528 rushing yards and four touchdowns.


Injuries, inexperience and the quality of opponents have played a major role in the Wolfpack's ugly three-game losing streak, in which it has been outscored by a combined 144-44 margin. But doesn't absolve State from all blame for its escalating woes. Saturday, the Wolfpack did everything in its power to help Clemson run up the score by shooting itself in the foot on numerous occasions, on both sides of the ball. Here are a few examples: In the first quarter, quarterback Devin Leary fumbled as he was being sacked, giving Clemson the ball at the 3-yard line. Two plays later the Tigers scored to increase their lead to 21-0. On the next series, two significant gains -- one on a pass from Leary to Devin Carter and an even bigger one on a run by Knight -- were nullified by holding penalties, both committed by freshman wide receiver Keyon Lesane. On the very next play, Leary simply dropped the ball as he set up to throw downfield. Clemson recovered, setting up yet another score. There was also an offside penalty on Jakeen Harris that gave Clemson a first down when it was lined up to punt and a snap that went right through Leary's hands late in the first half that cost State a chance to score points. The coup de grace came with less than three minutes remaining when graduate student Tabari Hines inexplicably tried to field a punt as it was rolling to a stop, touching it and allowing the Tigers to recover. These are all things that must be addressed and can be corrected regardless of who is or isn't able to play.


All three of State's starting linebackers against Clemson were freshmen making their first career starts. All three -- redshirts Payton Wilson and Calvin Hart, along with true freshman Drake Thomas -- suffered injuries of varying degree in the game. A fourth freshman, offensive guard Dylan McMahon, also made his first career start. In all, eight of State's 11 starters on offense Saturday did not start a game before this season.


The aforementioned Knight is the obvious choice after accounting for nearly half (139 of 290) of his team's offensive yardage while averaging a healthy 11.6 yards per carry.


The 45-point margin represents State's largest home loss ever at Carter-Finley Stadium, surprassing a 44-point loss (58-14) to Florida State in 2000. It was also the Wolfpack's most lopsided loss to a current ACC member since getting shut out 75-0 by Duke in 1943 -- a decade before the conference was formed. State has now lost eight straight and 15 of its last 16 to Clemson.


Punter Trenton Gill averaged 52.2 yards on five kicks Saturday, including a career-long of 75 yards, while downing two inside the 20-yard line. He also handled the Wolfpack's three kickoffs, two of which resulted in either a touchback or fair catch.


The Wolfpack started the game with seven players -- TE Dylan Autenreith, CBs Chris Ingram, Teshaun Smith and Taiyon Palmer; WR C.J. Riley, OT Tyrone Riley and OT Justin Witt -- listed as out for the season. Although it got CB Nick McCloud back for the first time since hurting a knee in the season opener against East Carolina, It was announced shortly before kickoff that several more key contributors would miss the game because of injury, including linebackers Isaiah Moore and Louis Acceus, and defensive end Xavier Lyas. The attrition continued once the game began with all LBs Payton Wilson, C.J. Hart and Drake Thomas all leaving with varying degrees of ailments. Other players that were attended to by trainers were S Jarius Morehead, DE James Smith-Williams, DT Alim McNeill and CB De'Von Graves.


"I don't think we have bad morale, I just think we have a football team that wants to win really bad and is not getting that taste right now."  Coach Dave Doeren

"It was a tremendous performance by our guys. We were ready. We had a great week of practice. This ha sbeen a difficult place to play and that crowd does an amazing job here. It's a great enviornment, but our guys were locked in and just ready to play. Our execution was trememdous in that first half. We played about as clean as you can play and didn't make many mistakes." Clemson coach Dabo Swinney

"(It's a) next game mentality. Whoever is in front of us, we're just going to work hard and play our best football." Defensive tackle Larrell Murchison

"I just feel like we know what we're capable of doing and it starts with not beating ourselves. (It's just a matter of) going back to work and knowing what we're capable of even though we have so many guys hurt right now. That's no really an excuse for us. We just want to strive to be the best we can be." Quarterback Devin Leary


State returns to action next Saturday with another night game at Carter-Finley Stadium, with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff against ACC Atlantic rival Louisville on the ACC Network.