RALEIGH, N.C. — The first half ended for Clemson the same way the game began, with a negative play.
Alex Spence missed a 40-yard field goal attempt as time expired, allowing NC State to take a 21-17 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The game started with Kelly Bryant throwing an interception to Tim Kid-Glass on the Tigers’ third play of the game. That led to a 40-yard Ryan Finley touchdown pass to Kelvin Harmon three plays later to start a half that saw the two teams combine for 415 yards and five touchdowns.
Finley completed his first 15 passes and threw for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Bryant tried to bounce back and keep pace with the Wolfpack quarterback, but he was just 13-of-27 for 102 yards. Bryant did rush 6 times for 43 yards as well.
Clemson’s defense had no answer for the Wolfpack, who totaled 244 yards and ran 37 plays. The Tigers allowed just 282.3 per game coming in.
The Clemson offense did total 171 yards on 41 plays.
Following Bryant’s interception, NC State need three plays to open the scoring as Finley found Harmon streaking down the middle of the field for the 40-yard touchdown.
After getting a rare stop, Clemson got on the board when Ray-Ray McCloud caught a punt at his 23, made one man miss then hit the seam where he broke one tackle, spun off another, broke a third and then used his blocks to cut back across the field to finish off the 77-yard touchdown.
It was the longest punt return for a Clemson touchdown since C.J. Spiller had a 78-yard return against Boston College in 2009.
NC State quickly grabbed the lead back when Jaylen Samuels went in from a yard out with 2:55 left in the first quarter. That capped a 12-play, 65-yard drive that took 6:34 off the clock.
The Tigers rallied to tie the game for a second time on its next possession when Bryant jumped into the end zone after a 10-yard touchdown run up the middle. Though Bryant had been off for much of the first half, he made two big-time throws on third down to keep the drive going – one to Hunter Renfrow and another to tight end Milan Richard.
Bryant’s touchdown came with 14:04 to play in the second quarter.
Finley again directed the Wolfpack back down the field on its next possession to break the tie again. This time he recorded his second touchdown pass of the game when he hit Samuels for a 7-yard score with 9:29 to play in the half.
Spence added a 26-yard field with 5:15 to play in the second quarter to make the score 21-17.
Both kickers missed a field goal in the final two minutes to end the half.