Third-ranked Clemson defeated NC State 24-17 in an overtime at Death Valley on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers have now advanced to 7-0 and are 4-0 in ACC play after the win.
Here is what we heard following the victory:
Head coach Dabo Swinney was proud of the way his team never gave up. Despite the number of mistakes, Swinney said the win showed the team’s heart and ability to fight.
“What a ball game man, just an unbelievable game,” he said. “We talked all week about NC State, how they were fighting with everything they had. You had two teams who are battling for first place in the division, so we knew it was going to be a championship effort for sure, and it was the same for our guys.
“Our guys played with tremendous effort, we just had a lot of mistakes. You’re lucky to win. Four turnovers, three in the red zone, two on the goal line is really hard to overcome. Our guys continue to fight. At the end of the day, they found a way to win another close one.”
Quarterback Deshaun Watson now sits at 25-2 for games he has started at Clemson, and he said he won’t forget how hard he and his teammates fought to maintain Clemson’s current undefeated record.
“We all just keep fighting and keep pushing,” Watson said. “We all understand that the game is not over until the final whistle, so we all just kept fighting and came out with the W.”
Watson finished the game completing 39 of 52 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns, but it was his 10-yard touchdown pass to Artavis Scott in overtime that ultimately won the game for the Tigers.
“We just executed the play,” Watson said. “He did a good job of stemming the safety and catching the ball. Big-time players make big-time plays in big moments, and that’s what he did.”
Although Watson’s connection with Scott gave Clemson the lead, cornerback Marcus Edmond sealed the win with an interception in the end zone.
“It was a great play. We work on that in practice and it worked out,” Edmond said.
Edmond is not new to making game-saving plays. Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables both stated he is a great example of working hard even when he had to wait his turn.
“It’s a lesson to all of us that, for some of us it all happens at different times. A year ago he was running scout defense and now look at him.” Venables said.
Defensive end Christian Wilkins also played a key role in Clemson’s success on Saturday. One of his game-changing plays was a blocked field goal that prevented NC State from taking a lead in the third quarter.
“It was just set up perfectly, you had Dexter and Carlos man-handling the guys inside, so I was able to take advantage of my guy one-on-one. They just set me up nicely, they were paying a lot more attention to those guys. I just kind of got a one-on-one, just ripped to the side and kind of knew we needed a play. That could have changed the game right there if they made that field goal,” Wilkins said.