No close call this time as Clemson blasts NC State
Kelvin Harmon got behind Clemson’s defense.
There was only green grass in front of N.C. State’s star receiver. The throw from quarterback Ryan Finley was on target. The ball hit Harmon’s hands but he dropped it.
It was that kind of day for the 16th-ranked Wolfpack.
There were dropped passes, a plethora of procedural penalties and too many turnovers to overcome. No. 3 Clemson cashed in all of the errors for a 41-7 win on Saturday, its seventh straight win over the Wolfpack.
This was no repeat of the close calls for N.C. State (5-1, 2-1 ACC) with the Tigers ( 7-0, 4-0 ACC), like the 24-17 overtime loss here in 2016 and or the 38-31 home loss last year.
After a 5-0 start against an agreeable schedule, N.C. State punched up in weight class and got knocked down by the Tigers, who have won 57 of their last 61 games.
An unbelievable opportunity was within N.C. State’s reach. The Wolfpack couldn’t have won its first ACC title since 1979 on Saturday, but it almost certainly lost it.
The Tigers looked every bit like the ACC’s best team and a national-title contender. Clemson quarterback Trevor Law- rence was calm, cool and accurate. The true freshman (26 of 39, 308 yards, one touchdown) looked like the sure-fire NFL prospect while Finley, a sixthyear senior, struggled.
Finley, the ACC’s leading passer, finished 21 of 34 for a season-low 156 yards with two interceptions and a fumble. Harmon, the ACC’s leading receiver, finished with two catches for 13 yards (both season-lows).
It was N.C. State’s biggest games in years, arguably decades, but it came out flat and flustered. After Harmon’s drop, the offense was flagged for a delay of game penalty and a false start on consecutive plays. The Wolfpack had five penalties in the first half, when it dug a hole, and finished with three turnovers in the game.
Clemson’s defensive front sped up Finley and forced the ACC’s top passer into a handful
of costly mistakes. Just executing the snap was a challenge.
With the slightest glimmer of hope in the second quarter, N.C State moved into Clemson territory for the first time. Down 14-0 and with a chance to get back in the game, Finley couldn’t collect a snap on third-and-10 from the Clemson 39.
The Tigers recovered the fumble with 2:15 left in the half and scored seven plays later, a 2-yard touchdown run by Travis Etienne.
The Tigers scored on their opening possession, a nine-play, 57-yard clinic and Lawrence hit receiver Tee Higgins (eight catches, 119 yards) on a 46-yard touchdown pass on their second possession.
Etienne’s second TD run made it 21-0 and then safety K’Von Wallace intercepted Finley before the end of the half ot set up a 28-yard field goal by Greg Huegel. Etienne added his third short touchdown run in the third quarter.
N.C. State finally got on the board with a 9-yard touchdown run by Reggie Gallaspy on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Tigers added 10 more points in the fourth quarter for their 14th win over N.C. State in 15 games.
N.C. State wide receiver Kelvin Harmon can't pull in a pass while defended by Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell during the first half.
Clemson's Travis Etienne scores on a 3-yard run to give Clemson a 7-0 lead in the first quarter against N.C. State on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.