Tigers take control of ACC Atlantic Division with win over NC State

Written by Derek Robbie
Raleigh, NC – In a back and forth offensive affair the No. 4 Clemson Tigers held on to defeat No. 20 NC State, 38-31, in Raleigh, NC. With the victory, Clemson gained control of the ACC Atlantic division and likely strengthened their stock in the College Football Playoff rankings.

On the Tigers first third down, quarterback Kelly Bryant rolled out to his right and tried to force a throw to his receiver that was picked off by NC State’s safety Tim Kid-Glass, giving the Wolfpack the ball inside Clemson’s 40-yard line. On third and long, quarterback Ryan Finley threw his receiver open on a fade for a 40-yard touchdown. Harmon’s trip to the end zone gave his side a 7-0 lead with 13 minutes remaining in the first quarter.

A few drives later, the Tigers forced NC State to punt from inside their own 20-yard line. Clemson’s Ray-Ray McCloud received the ball and zig-zagged his way all the way to the end zone for a 77-yard return. McCloud tied the game at 7 apiece with nine minutes left in the first.

NC State answered back on their next drive which was a long one that ate up a decent amount of time lasting a total of six and a half minutes with 12 plays. Running back Jaylen Samuel ended the possesion with a 1-yard touchdown run that came from a direct snap. Samuel’s rush gave the Wolfpack a 14-7 lead with 2:25 left in the first quarter.

Clemson also answered back on their following drive. Bryant tried to find his receiver McCloud, but he was interfered with which gave his team first and goal on NC State’s 10-yard line. Bryant ran the ball in the end zone for the score and to tie the game at 14 with 14 minutes left in the first half.

By the middle of the second quarter, the game was already starting to look like an offensive shootout. The Wolfpack answered back when Samuel snagged the ball out of the air for a short 7-yard score giving NC State the 21-14 lead with nine and a half minutes in the second quarter.

Clemson had two 15-yard penalties to bring them inside NC State’s 10-yard line. The first flag was from a defensive pass interference and the second from a controversial roughing the passer penalty. Though they were in prime position to score a touchdown, they had to settle for a 26-yard field goal from kicker Alex Spence. The kick cut the Wolfpack lead to 21-17 with just over five minutes in the half.

Both teams missed field goals on their final drives of the first half. NC State’s kicker Carson Wise missed a 34-yarder with 1:42 left in the half. Additionally, Spence missed a 39-yard attempt for Clemson in the final seconds of the first-half.

When asked about his teams’ first-half offensive efficiency, head coach Dave Doeren said, “Well, we were getting first downs, and getting them tired. And their defense was fatigued, we were able to get them misaligned and out of their stances. Ryan [Finley] had a good rhythm playing soft coverage.”

About halfway through the third quarter, the Tigers had 4th-and-1 inside the 50. Clemson left their offense on the field but instead of going for the first down Bryant took the snap and punted the ball downfield, and since nobody on NC State was expecting the punt it pinned them inside their own 1-yard line.

Clemson topped off a 9-play drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Bryant to his receiver Deon Cain. Cain’s touchdown gave the Tigers their first lead of the afternoon with a 24-21 lead with just over three minutes in the third quarter.

The Tigers overwhelming defense forced the Wolfpack to punt after only six plays. On their first play of the drive, Bryant handed the ball to running back Tavien Feaster who ran right up the middle and was not even touched on his 89-yard touchdown. Feaster’s monster run gave his team a 31-21 lead at the end of the third quarter.

NC State responded by scoring on their following drive. The scoring play came on a 15-yard pass from Finley to wide receiver Jakobi Meyers to bring the Wolfpack within three points of the Tigers. Meyers’ touchdown reception cut Clemson’s lead to 31-28 with 12 minutes in the game.

The trend of this game was that when one team scored the other seemed to answer back on their following drive. This happened once again after Meyers’ touchdown. Clemson drove down the field to eventually have Bryant run the ball in for a 1-yard score. Bryant’s run gave his side a 38-28 edge with six and a half left in the contest.

NC State looked like they would answer back on their following drive until they got inside the red zone where Clemson’s defense tightened up significantly. This forced the Wolfpack to settle for another field goal. Due to Wise missing a field goal at the end of the first half, Kyle Bambard took the field to attempt the kick. Bambard made the 22-yard field goal to cut Clemson’s lead to 38-31 with 1:50 remaining.

NC State had the ball at the inside Clemson’s half with less than a minute left, but they could not capitalize due to the Tigers defense tightening up and forcing the clock to run out.

NC State head coach Dave Doeren mentioned there was a laptop on the Clemson sideline which is against NCAA rules. “I’d like to know why there was a laptop on Clemson’s sideline,” Doeren said. “I’d like that to be investigated. Maybe they weren’t doing anything, but I was told its illegal to have technology on the sidelines.”

NC State’s next game is next Saturday at Boston College, but the time has not been announced yet so keep an eye out for that over the next few days. Clemson hosts a struggling Florida State squad next Saturday at a time that will be announced over the coming days.

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