N.C. State coach respects Clemson's pressure

Chandler Catanzaro

Photo by Mark Crammer

Chandler Catanzaro

CLEMSON – Senior Clemson kicker Chandler Catanzaro has made 28 of his last 29 field goal attempts, but in his mind, he’s knocked through quite a few more.

“I work on visualization techniques,” Catanzaro said Monday. “(Former NFL kicker) Morten Andersen taught me the importance of and how to utilize that. I’ll definitely do some visualization and visualize a kick before halftime or a long field goal or a gamewinner. I always picture in my head a gamewinner so when I get there it’s already in my mind.”

That served him pretty well in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Visualizing key for Catanzaro

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The 28-of-29 run stretches back to the first-ever, last-second gamewinner in Death Valley to clinch the Atlantic Division in 2011 against Wake Forest. His last miss was nine attempts ago, also against the Deacs, last season.

“It’s special what I’ve been able to do at this level,” Catanzaro said. “I do look at that a little bit and you’ve got to be proud of yourself. It’s definitely cool, but my focus is that I’m never satisfied and that I’m always trying to get better each and every day.”

The reliability plays into Clemson’s offensive strategy.

“We always tell our quarterback and tell our team that any time we get in the red zone that we have three points if we just don’t screw it up,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “That’s what made us so effective last year in red zone offense – we were No. 1 in the country – because we took that approach.”

Getting to this point came with the usual trials of a young kicker – and a particularly memorable overtime mis-kick wide left at Auburn in 2010.

“That was honestly a big turning point in my faith – that happened and I was devastated,” Catanzaro said. “To fail on that big of a stage, it’s just not fun. It just had never happened to me before. I took it pretty hard. I met with my family and they said when God closes one door he opens up another. That’s just been driving me.”

Now, the Greenville native sits eight points shy of a Clemson all-time scoring record (329, Aaron Hunt), which is exactly in line with how the former walk-on forecasted his career to Dabo Swinney on a campus visit.

“I remember telling him I wasn’t coming here to be another kicker,” said Catanzaro. “I was coming here to leave a legacy and break records. I guess that’s just what happened. I’ve just stayed in the process and taking it kick by kick.”

N.C. State’s bracing for Clemson pressure: The Tigers have picked up where they left off last season in pressuring opponents behind the line of scrimmage – and N.C. State coach Dave Doeren has taken notice.

Clemson’s 3.5 sacks a contest are good enough for 10th-best nationally and the Tiger ‘D’ is No. 15 in tackles for loss (four per game).

“No matter what the down and distance is, they pin their ears back,” Doeren said Monday. “They really aren’t a max blitz team as much as they are bringing five from all over the place.”

Doeren says he’s familiar with Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ work and Clemson resembles what he’s seen from throughout Venables’ coaching career.

“You can tell they have been in the system for two years,” he said. “If you watch film from all of last season until now, they have really made strides...Any time you play a great team, especially us as young as we are, it’s going to be a great gauge on where we need to go.”

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