NC State was determined it was not going to let No. 3 Clemson run the football on Saturday.
The 15th-ranked Wolfpack held Clemson to a season-low 91 yards rushing and dared the Tigers to throw the football with their young quarterback. So, Clemson did just that.
Freshman Trevor Lawrence completed 26-of-39 passes for 308 yards and one touchdown in leading the Tigers to a 41-7 rout of the previously unbeaten Wolfpack at Memorial Stadium in Clemson. It marked the Tigers’ 12th straight victory at Death Valley and seventh straight overall against the Wolfpack.
The 34-point win was also the second largest margin of victory against a ranked opponent in Clemson history.
“We ran the ball more than the stats show, but a lot of our runs turned into passes,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “I thought our quarterback played awesome. I thought he was a little geeked up early and missed a couple of deep balls where we did not really get a chance to make a competitive play, but he was on the money. He made some big-time throws and our receivers did a great job making plays and yards after the catch.”
For most of the game, NC State (5-1, 2-1 ACC) sat back with a safety-high and gave the Tigers the sideline as if they were daring Lawrence to throw it there. So, he took what they were giving him as he found Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, Hunter Renfrow and Trevion Thompson over-and-over again.
“It just makes you more confident having the receivers we have,” Lawrence said. “You put it in the air and they’re going to catch it and also we knew we had some of those looks on the outside with some man coverage, so we took advantage of that.”
Lawrence tried to get the ball to his receivers early with a couple of long throws, but he just missed connecting with Renfrow and Higgins. However, he never got frustrated and he kept making plays with his arm.
“I was just a little juiced up,” he said. “I overthrew some of them, but I feel like we knew our plan well and executed it well.”
The Cartersville, Ga., native eventually settled in and found Higgins on a deep post route for a 46-yard touchdown in the second quarter. At the time, it gave the Tigers a 14-0 lead with 2:59 to play in the first quarter.
“We knew from watching the film and preparing for them that we were going to have some matchups and things that we wanted, and we definitely took advantage of that,” Lawrence said.
Clemson (7-0, 4-0 ACC) finished the game with a season-high 380 passing yards. Higgins led all receivers with eight catches for 119 yards, while Ross caught five passes for 75. Renfrow had five for 41 and Thompson four for 45. In all, 12 different Tigers caught a pass.
“It was really good to show everyone that we can run the ball well, but also throw and catch the ball well, too,” Lawrence said. “It was a big game for us to really spread it around and play really well.”