There was no suspense in this year’s Clemson-NC State game. After escaping the Wolfpack the last two years with seven-point victories, Saturday’s game at Clemson’s Death Valley was over at halftime.
Travis Etienne ran for three touchdowns, while Trevor Lawrence threw for another as third-ranked Clemson thumped No. 15 NC State, 41-7.
It marked the Tigers’ 14 win over NC State in the last 15 meetings. The loss was the Wolfpack’s first of the season and drops their record to 5-1 and 2-1 in the ACC.
The win also gives Clemson (7-0, 4-0 ACC) control of the ACC’s Atlantic Division as it heads to play Florida State next week in Tallahassee, Fla.
The Wolfpack’s game plan was to take the football out of Etienne’s hands and make Lawrence beat them with his arm. Part of that plan worked as they held Etienne to 39 yards on 15 carries. However, Lawrence did not abide by those plans.
The freshman picked the Pack defense apart for 308 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.
While Lawrence was completing 26-of-39 passes, his counterpart, Ryan Finley, struggled. A large part of that was due to the Clemson defense as he completed just 21-of-36 passes for 156 yards. He was intercepted twice and fumbled another time.
Clemson outgained the Wolfpack 471 to 297. The Pack was just 2-of-12 on third down. They came into the game leading the nation in third down conversions at 60 percent.
The Clemson crowd also played a role in the outcome. The 81,295 had State’s offense messed up all day. The Pack was called for illegal procedure penalties twice and a delay of game once.
Finley’s fumble came on a bad snap when center Garrett Bradbury snapped the ball too early while the senior 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.
Etienne capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown 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 opening 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.
Clemson added another Etienne touchdown in the third quarter to go along with Huegel’s second field goal. Freshman Lyn-J Dixon scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter.