North Carolina State quarterback Ryan Finley entered Saturday’s game leading the ACC in passing yards (1,621), average yards per game (324.2), pass attempts (187) and completion percentage (69.5). Many pundits thought Finley could pick apart the Clemson secondary, making use of the Wolfpack’s talented group of wide receivers, much like Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond did earlier in the season.
However, No. 3 Clemson dominated the 15th-ranked Wolfpack, 41-7, claiming its seventh consecutive Textile Bowl and 14th win in the last 15 meetings.
The Tigers (7-0, 4-0) stifled the NC State (5-1, 2-1) offensive attack, holding it to 297 yards of total offense. Finley had by far his worst game of the season finishing the day 21-of-34 with no touchdowns, a sack, two interceptions and a fumbled snap.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is proud of the way his defensive backs played and how they limited Finley’s looks by covering up NC State’s vaunted receiving corp.
“I thought our DBs played really well today and did a great job of getting their hands on the ball,” Venables said. “We stressed that we have to make plays on the ball in tight situations and our guys really showed up.”
Defensively the Tigers felt they had something to prove after narrowly escaping in the last two meetings against the divisional foe and hearing the comments made throughout the week by Wolfpack players as well as head coach Dave Doeren.
Venables believes his team left no doubt in the dominating performance holding NC State to 297 total yards and just one score as well as forcing the three turnovers. He says it has a lot to do with playing to a high standard against a ranked opponent.
“I think they knew the quality of the opponent and I’m not sure all that was said. We have also thought the last couple of years didn’t have to be close those games didn’t have to go down to the wire and from a redemption standpoint there’s a lot to be said about that,” Venables said.
A few Clemson players seemed quicker to recall comments from the week and garnered motivation that added something extra to this year’s contest. Linebacker Isaiah Simmons, who led the Tigers in tackles with 11 and a quarterback hurry, took some of the earlier comments to heart.
“We really took this game personally because of all the things they’ve been saying this week. It was something every person wanted, to make sure we left not doubt or any questions in this game,” Simmons said.
Clemson defensive back K’Von Wallace intercepted Finley for the third consecutive season nearly scoring on the return that set up a touchdown.
Wallace read and heard what the Wolfpack said in advance of the game and was impressed with how they limited Finley.
“He’s a great quarterback who is smart and knows defenses but to go and force the three turnovers shows we can play with anybody,” Wallace said. “And we saw things coaches and players were saying on social media and it is what it is. We worried about us, put our blinders on and got our win.”
Clemson returns to action next weekend against divisional rival Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla.