Of course, it was Clemson.
What other team could Kyle Bambard make his return as N.C. State’s kicker against?
Bambard stepped in for Carson Wise in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss to the Tigers. The junior kicker made an extra point at 12:23 in the fourth quarter and then a 22-yard field goal with 1:51 left in the game.
It was his first made field goal since his life changed in a loss at Clemson last year.
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“Obviously, I had been waiting for that moment for a long time,” Bambard said.
It was Bambard’s miss at the end of regulation, from 33 yards, which cost the Wolfpack a win at Clemson a year ago. An avalanche of vile insults, and even some death threats, were immediately thrown his way on social media.
The cold, harsh reaction by N.C. State fans taught Bambard to be mentally tougher.
“My mental side of the game has grown so much since last year, honestly that’s the difference,” Bambard said.
“Whether it’s Clemson or Alabama or whoever we are playing, it’s still just me and the ball.
Bambard had only been handling kickoff duties this season. In the offseason, N.C. State coach Dave Doeren added Wise, a graduate transfer from Carson-Newman, to handle the kicking job.
Most other players would have transferred in Bambard’s position. He was determined to stick it out. Now Bambard finds himself back in a starting role but also in a position to help Wise.
“We’re teammates,” Bambard said. “No one wants him to succeed more than I do. And honestly right now, no one knows more what he’s going through than I do.”
Wise’s miss left him 6-of-13 on the season on field goals (he has also missed two PATs in 37 attempts). Wise has struggled at home, going 4-of-8 at Carter-Finley Stadium.
His 34-yard miss at the end of the first half was his third (in four attempts) at the north end of the stadium.
Wise had missed his previous attempt, a 34-yarder, at Pittsburgh on Oct. 14. Doeren said Wise had been better in practice the two weeks leading up to the Clemson game.
“In the back of my mind, I knew that we were getting close to where I had to give Kyle a chance if Carson didn’t come through,” Doeren said.
After Wise’s miss in the second quarter, Doug Shearer, N.C. State’s quality control assistant for special teams, let Bambard know he would get his first chance since a 31-yard miss against Florida State last November.
Bambard was happy to get the PAT first, to get on the field back in a game situation. Then, he said, he was relieved when the short field goal went inside the right upright to cut Clemson’s lead to 38-31.
He would have been happier if N.C. State had been able to come back and win the game.
The way Bambard’s story has unfolded, he’ll likely get a chance at redemption with a game-winner before long.
He’s already made peace with his past. He turned back on his Instagram and Snapchat accounts last spring.
“There’s still the occasional, ‘Hey you (stink),’ but at this point I’m over it and it doesn’t affect me at all,” Bambard said.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
N.C. State at Boston College
When: 12 p.m. Saturday
Where: Chestnut Hill, Mass.
TV/Radio: ABC/ESPN2, Wolfpack Sports Network
Field goal ‘defense’
To compound N.C. State’s kicking problems, since the start of the 2015 season, the Wolfpack’s opponents have been lights out on field goals. How opponents have kicked against each ACC team: