I don’t know why I am writing this. Ideally, I would have forgotten that yesterday’s game had happened immediately after its soul crushing conclusion and moved on. It doesn’t work like that though, at least not for me. Instead I spent most of the day being sad and playing out all the different scenarios that could have occurred had things gone differently. There’s a bazillion what-ifs to talk about. What if Kyle Bambard had hit that field goal? What if State had ran a few more plays inside the 30 on that last drive? What if that facemask on third and goal had actually been called? What if Clemson never formed a football team back in 1896 and this game never even came close to happening?
Those what-ifs really suck to think about for us, and we’re just fans. I’m sure it sucks so much more for the players and coaches, who by the way deserve huge amounts of praise for a phenomenal game, even if it was in a losing effort. State played well enough that they 100% should have beaten the number three team in the country on the road. In the end though it doesn’t matter, because the effort came up short mostly by the Pack’s own doing. Everybody wants to point a finger and pinpoint the loss on one specific person or thing, but the point of talking about all the what-ifs from Saturday is to say that you can’t drop the weight of the loss on one person or thing.
Yes, Bambard missed a 33 yard field goal that would have won the game. If Doeren had sent out a Golden Retriever to kick the game winner, and the dog just sniffed the ball before being crushed by a bunch of heartless defensive linemen (who would tackle a dog?), would you blame the dog for not sending the ball through the uprights? Of course not. This is an extreme example and I’m not comparing Bambard’s kicking ability to that of a dog, but the point is that the decision to put the game in the hands of somebody who isn’t necessarily prepared to make that play is questionable.
The Pack’s conservative clock burning approach once they got deep into Clemson territory suggests that that’s exactly what the coaches were content with doing. They called the one pass play, but with timeouts remaining and plenty of seconds to work with, State took an awfully conservative approach once they got inside the 25 yard line. Clemson’s defense was tired and State had moved the ball effectively that drive. Perhaps with two or three more plays, something positive could have happened. Maybe you score a touchdown and don’t have to worry about field goal kicking. Maybe the kick becomes an easier one. There was error in both the final minute management and the kick itself and neither is free of blame.
If Niklas Sade was still the kicker, NC State would be 6-0. He’s not though, and the end of the Pack’s last drive was approached as if he was. There are plenty of things you can point to as the reasons State came up short on Saturday, one of which was an inability to make a relatively easy field goal. It is not the only thing though.