Travis Etienne ran for two touchdowns and Trevor Lawrence threw for another as third-ranked Clemson dominated No. 15 NC State in the first half Saturday at Death Valley.
Clemson led 24-0 at the break.
The Wolfpack’s plan was to take the football out of Etienne’s hands and make Lawrence beat them. Part of that plan worked as they held Etienne to 27 yards on 10 carries, but the second part did not. Lawrence picked the Pack apart for 244 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown pass to Tee Higgins with 2:59 left in the first quarter, that put the Tigers up 14-0 at the time.
Higgins finished the first half with a career-high seven catches for 111 yards.
While Lawrence was completing 21-of-29 passes, his counterpart, Ryan Finley, was struggling. A large part of that was do to the Clemson defense as he completed just 7 of 13 passes for 58 yards. He was intercepted once and fumbled another time.
Clemson outgained the Wolfpack 289 to 100. The Pack was just 1-of-6 on third down. They came into the game leading the nation in third down conversions.
The Clemson crowd also played a role in the first half outcome. State was called for illegal procedure penalties twice and a delay of game once. The fumble came on a bad snap when center Garrett Bradbury snapped the ball too early while Finley was trying to audible a call.
Clemson opened the game at its own 43, following a 40-yard Derion Kendrick kickoff return. The Tigers needed nine plays to take advantage of the good field position.
Travis Etienne capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown, his 10th in the last four games, to put the Tigers up 7-0 with 11:23 to play in the first quarter. Lawrence completed 5-of-6 passes for 47 yards on the drive, including a 10-yard pass to Higgins on third-and-three from Pack 38.
Lawrence continued to throw the ball and later in the first quarter he hit Higgins on a post for a 46-yard touchdown pass for a 14-0 lead with 2:59 to play in the second quarter. The touchdown pass capped a 6-play, 75-yard scoring drive that took 2:12 off the clock.
Etienne, who had a very quiet first half, ran the ball in from two yards out following an NC State fumble to give the Tigers a 21-0 lead with 46 seconds left before halftime. The touchdown drive covered 54 yards in seven plays and took 1:29 off the clock.
Greg Huegel added a 28-yard field goal with two seconds left in the half to give the Tigers a 24-0 lead at the break.