RALEIGH, N.C. — Everyone knew Clemson was going to take out its frustrations with the College Football Playoff Committee on NC State. And it did exactly that in the first half Saturday night at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.
The CFP Committee ranked the Tigers No. 5 in their first poll of the season this past Tuesday, ending Clemson’s streak of 24 straight weeks ranked in the top 4. Though Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said all week the No. 5 ranking did not matter, it was obvious from the start the Tigers had a point to make.
Clemson scored on its first four possessions in route to a 42-0 halftime lead.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw three touchdown passes, while running back Travis Etienne ran for one score and caught another. In all, the Tigers totaled 403 yards, including 182 on the ground.
The defense did its part as well, forcing three turnovers and holding the Wolfpack to 88 yards of offense and four first downs.
Lawrence finished the first half 16-23 for 221 yards, while finding Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross for 33-yard touchdown passes and Etienne on a shovel pass from 3 yards out. Lawrence also ran for 51 yards, a career high.
Etienne ran for 83 yards in the first 30 minutes and scored on a 19-yard run. The Tigers also got a one-yard touchdown run from John Simpson out of the jumbo package in the second quarter. The junior also had three receptions for 31 yards.
Clemson drove 84 yards on nine plays with its first drive which culminated in a 6-yard touchdown run by Lawrence for a 7-0 lead with 10:56 to play in the first quarter.
Lawrence got off to a great start, completing all four of his passes for 56 yards including gains of 10, 14, 20 and 12. He also ran the ball twice for 13 yards including the 6-yard score that capped off the scoring drive.
On Clemson’s second drive, Lawrence found Higgins streaking down the near sideline for a 33-yard touchdown. The touchdown pass capped a 10-play, 92-yard drive for the Tigers and gave them a 14-0 lead with 5:00 left in the first quarter.
Linebacker James Skalski caused a fumble on NC State’s ensuing possession, which Chad Smith recovered and returned to the State 3-yard line. Etienne scored two plays later on the shovel pass from Lawrence for a 21-0 lead.
Etienne capped Clemson’s first 28-point first quarter since 2012, when he ran 19 yards up the middle for a touchdown with 1:31 to play. Clemson has now outscored its opposition 128-7 in the first quarter this season.
Simpson scored on a 1-yard run with 4:30 to play in the half and then Lawrence found Ross from 33 yards out to make the score 42-0 with 45 seconds to go.