RALEIGH, N.C. — Clemson’s offense was again inept for most of the day while the defense bent before ultimately breaking in a 27-21 loss to North Carolina State in double overtime Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium. Here are four sequences that went a long way toward deciding the outcome, a turning point and a telling stat from the Tigers’ loss.
- After Clemson marched 80 yards on five plays for a touchdown on its second possession, N.C. State quickly answered to take back the momentum with the first offensive touchdown the Tigers have allowed this season. The Wolfpack started near midfield after just a 34-yard punt by Will Spiers. An offside penalty on Bryan Bresee shortened N.C. State’s first third down of the possession, which the Wolfpack converted to get into Clemson territory. Tre Williams then jumped offside to make for a more manageable distance on N.C. State’s next third, which the Wolfpack again converted. Four plays later, the Wolfpack scored on Devin Leary’s 9-yard back-shoulder touchdown pass to Emeka Emezie and drew even with the ensuing extra point with 5 ticks left in the first quarter.
- After forcing a turnover, Clemson put together one of its more promising drives of the first half when the Tigers moved into N.C. State territory late in the second quarter. The possession was assisted by a pass interference penalty on the Wolfpack when Joseph Ngata tried to come back for a pass deep down the field. That moved the Tigers to midfield, and Justyn Ross picked up 8 more yards on an ensuing screen, but the next play ended the Tigers’ threat. Uiagalelei tried to find a receiver over the middle, but the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage by Isaiah Moore and intercepted by Drake Thomas to get the ball back to N.C. State’s offense.
- Following a nine-play, 77-yard scoring drive that put N.C. State ahead 14-7 late in the third quarter, Clemson looked dead in the water with a lifeless offense to that point. But the Tigers resuscitated themselves with an answer that halted N.C. State’s momentum and silenced many of the 58,000-plus packed inside Carter-Finley Stadium. Uiagalelei connected with Ross for 11 yards on third-and-8 for the Tigers’ first first down since the first quarter to keep the drive going, Will Shipley followed with his longest run of the day (16 yards), and Uiagalelei provided the big play with his legs when he broke contain and rumbled 37 yards to put Clemson inside the Wolfpack’s 10. Shipley capped the seven-play, 80-yard march with a 5-yard touchdown run to draw Clemson even with 10:52 left.
- N.C. State answered Clemson’s first scoring drive of the second half with a methodical march that looked like it might put the Wolfpack ahead again midway through the fourth quarter. Leary converted a third down with an 11-yard pass to Chris Tougle, and Ricky Person ripped off a 22-yard run that moved N.C. State to Clemson’s 38. But the Tigers caught a break on the next play when N.C. State was called for holding against their bending defense, moving the Wolfpack behind the chains. N.C. State ultimately had to settle for Christopher Dunn’s 51-yard field-goal attempt, which he missed, before Dunn pulled a 39-yarder as time expired a few minutes later to send the game to overtime.
After starting overtime with a touchdown, Clemson needed another to keep the game going after N.C. State started the second extra period with another touchdown. It looked like that might happen when Uiagalelei threw toward Ross in the front corner of the end zone on second down, but Ross couldn’t corral the catch. On fourth down, with Clemson needing 5 yards for a fresh set of downs, Uiagalelei floated another pass Ross’ way toward the goal line, but Ross couldn’t come up with that one either, sending N.C. State’s fans rushing the field in celebration of the upset win.
Telling stat: 47
That’s how many more plays N.C. State ran than Clemson. Between another inept showing by the Tigers’ offense (10 first downs) and a banged-up defense being on the field far too long, N.C. State held the ball for 41 minutes, 48 seconds in regulation and ran 96 plays to Clemson’s 49. Clemson’s defense did all it could, including forcing a turnover and two missed field goals in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers simply wore down over the course of 60 minutes and change.
Football season has finally arrived. Time to represent your Tigers and show your stripes!