Third-ranked Clemson downed No. 15 NC State, 41-7, Saturday at Death Valley. Clemson improved to 7-0 and 4-0 in the ACC, while the Wolfpack dropped to 5-1 and 2-1 in the ACC.
The win allowed the Tigers to gain control of the ACC’s Atlantic Division race.
Here’s a look back at Clemson’s rout of the Wolfpack in a battle of unbeaten teams:
Clemson got a 40-yard kickoff return from Derion Kendrick to open the game, setting the Tigers up at their won 43-yard line. The Tigers needed nine plays to take advantage of the good field position.
Etienne, who finished the game with three touchdowns, 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 the 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.
A K’Von Wallace interception and return of 46 yards set up Greg Huegel’s 28-yard field goal with two seconds left in the half to give the Tigers a 24-0 lead at the break. The Tigers cruised from there.
What went right?
The Wolfpack’s game plan was to take the football out of Etienne’s hands and make Lawrence beat them with his arm. Lawrence made them pay.
The freshman picked the Pack’s 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.
What went wrong?
Clemson ran the football for just 91 yards on 32 carries. The total rushing yards were a season-low as was their 2.8 yards per carry average. Etienne, who came into the game leading the ACC in total rushing yards, ran for 39 yards on 15 carries. He averaged just a pedestrian-like 2.6 yards per carry.
Clemson also had an opportunity to produce it first shutout of the season had Christian Wilkins not been called for a roughing the passer penalty in State’s only scoring drive, which ended with a Reggie Gallaspy 9-yard run with 14:56 to play.
Finley’s third-down pass to Jakobi Meyers was broken up by Wallace on the third play of the drive and the Clemson defense was coming off the field with another three-and-out, but Wilkins took a late shot at Finley to keep the drive going.
Following a botched fake field goal attempt by Will Swinney, and Clemson leading 14-0, NC State was finally moving the football. Finley was finding a rhythm and had moved the Pack from his own 16 to the Clemson 39. However, on third-down-and-10, center Garrett Bradbury snapped the football when Finley was trying to change the play. Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence recovered the football at the Clemson 46-yard line.
Lawrence followed with completions of 11 and 21 yards to Tee Higgins and Trevion Thompson to get the Tigers’ offense going again. Etienne capped the 7-play, 54-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 46 seconds left in the half.
That gave Clemson a 21-0 lead at that point.