RALEIGH, N.C. — A week after bending in a narrow win over Georgia Tech, Clemson broke against North Carolina State in a 27-21 loss in double overtime Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly from the Tigers’ loss.
As poor as Clemson’s performance was on offense for most of the night, the Tigers showed flashes of what they’re capable of when they can rip off some chunk plays and get in somewhat of a rhythm. Clemson needed just five plays to cover 80 yards on its first touchdown drive early in the first quarter and later covered 80 yards on just seven snaps to tie the game early in the fourth.
Without a relatively clean game in the turnover department, Clemson may have never been able to send the game to overtime. The Tigers turned it over just once, and that was an interception that came on a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage. Clemson didn’t have any fumbles after putting the ball on the ground 11 times through the first three games.
And the defense did what it could to give Clemson a fighting chance despite the offensive ineptitude and all of its attrition. Even without its starting middle linebacker and two starting defensive tackles for most if not all of the game, Clemson held N.C. State to 14 points in regulation and 4 yards per play.
You can certainly make a case that Clemson’s offensive showing belongs in the ugly section, and you won’t get much of an argument at this point. The only thing that saved it from that this week was the Tigers being able to piece together a seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter when nothing was seemingly going right to even make overtime a possibility.
Problem was, the Tigers’ three scoring drives (including a 25-yarder in the first overtime) accounted for more than 86% of their total offense. Clemson punted on eight of its 14 possessions, and the only reason it wasn’t more is because one ended in an interception while another consisted of just taking a knee at the end of the first half to run out the clock. The longest drive among those that ended in a punt? Four plays.
The offense is a mess as it continues to search for an identity. D.J. Uiagalelei finally hit on some deep throws Saturday, but those are still few and far between. There’s nothing the Tigers consistently do well on that side of the ball. One major reason Uiagalelei and the receiving corps can’t get things going through the air more often is because…
The running game continues to be MIA, which is putting all the pressure on the passing game. At one point in the first half, Clemson was averaging 1 yard per carry, and it didn’t get much better as the game wore on. The Tigers rushed for 103 yards and 4.5 yard per carry, numbers that would’ve been significantly less if not for a 37-yard scamper by Uiagalelei in the fourth quarter.
The push from the offensive line is nowhere to be found, and Clemson is losing running backs that have the ability to make a difference when the blocks aren’t there. After Lyn-J Dixon decided earlier in the week to enter the transfer portal, freshman Will Shipley got his knee rolled up on late and didn’t return, which was part of another ugly development.
Shipley was one of several injuries that piled up for Clemson, which had already lost defensive tackle Tyler Davis (bicep surgery) for a significant amount of time earlier in the week. Linebacker James Skaslski (shoulder) and defensive tackle Bryan Bresee (knee) were also knocked out of the game with injuries as were backup defensive linemen Ruke Orhorhoro and Tre Williams. Orhorhoro and Williams both returned. Skalski and Bresee are the long-term concerns.
Clemson also didn’t do itself any favors with penalties. The Tigers had 13 flags thrown on them, including a handful of offside penalties on the defense that helped N.C. State’s offense keep drives alive, some of which ended in points.
Football season has finally arrived. Time to represent your Tigers and show your stripes!