No. 5 Clemson (5-0, 3-0 ACC) took over sole possession of the top spot in the ACC’s Atlantic Division standings Saturday with a win over No. 10 NC State (4-1, 0-1) at Memorial Stadium. Here are four sequences that went a long way in determining the outcome, a turning point and a telling stat from the Tigers’ 30-20 victory.
- After bogging down in the red zone on its opening possession, Clemson again had a chance midway through the second quarter to put itself in a position for its first touchdown when the Tigers dialed up a shot play from NC State’s 39-yard line. Clemson called a fake screen, and Beaux Collins leaked open down the sideline after the Wolfpack bit on D.J. Uiagalelei’s pump fake. But Uiagalelei overshot Collins on the first-down play, and after a false start on freshman lineman Blake Miller late in the drive, the Tigers again had to settle for a 46-yard field goal from B.T. Potter. It gave the Tigers a 6-3 lead with 5 minutes, 47 seconds left before halftime, but it was a golden opportunity missed for more.
- NC State took its first lead late in the first half with the help of a couple of penalties on the Tigers. First, Andrew Mukuba was disqualified after being flagged for targeting to give the Wolfpack a fresh set of downs near midfield. Then, after R.J. Mickens was called for pass interference in the end zone on a third-and-8, NC State quarterback Devin Leary found Cedd Seabrough all alone for a 2-yard score two plays later. But Clemson quickly regained the lead and some momentum by capping a 75-yard march in the final 1:51 of the half on Uiagalelei’s 1-yard scoring keeper, which sent the Tigers to the break up 13-10.
- Clemson came out strong at the start of the second half to take its largest lead of the game. After forcing a three-and-out on NC State’s opening drive of the third quarter, Clemson took over at its own 42 after a personal-foul penalty on Will Taylor’s punt return. Uiagalelei provided the spark on the drive with a 38-yard sprint that ended up being the Tigers’ longest play from scrimmage. It set the Tigers with first-and-goal at the Wolfpack’s 9, and Uiagalelei sucked NC State’s defense up enough with some run action two plays later to find Jake Briningstool in the back of the end zone for a 7-yard score that pushed Clemson’s lead to 20-10 with 11:36 left in the third quarter, an important drive considering NC State got a field goal on its next possession.
- Clemson missed out on a chance to extend its 20-13 lead with 6:06 left in the third quarter when Potter pulled a 46-yard field-goal attempt to the left for his first miss of the season, seemingly a swing in momentum to the visitors’ side. But three possessions later, Toriano Pride was Mr. Johnny on the Spot for Clemson when Leary’s third-down pass bounced off his receiver’s hands and into the freshman cornerback’s waiting arms for the interception. Clemson’s offense picked up one first down on its ensuing possession to move into range for Potter, who redeemed himself with a 44-yarder to push the Tigers’ lead back to two possessions at 23-13 with 14:16 left.
Clemson went for the jugular with a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter when Uiagalelei heaved a pass downfield toward a wide-open Collins, but the pass fell just out of Collins’ reach and the Tigers eventually had to punt with 10:08 left. NC State proceeded drive to Clemson’s 39 over the next 2 minutes and change, but the Wolfpack eventually faced fourth-and-13 and elected to go with time ticking away. But Leary fumbled the snap, K.J. Henry recovered the loose ball, and the Tigers were in the end zone nine plays later to put the game on ice.
Telling stat: 0
That’s how many turnovers Clemson committed, which, for the second straight week, was critical in what was another tight game for a while. It’s the first time this season the Tigers have been turnover-free in consecutive games. Clemson finished plus-2 in the turnover margin with both of the Tigers’ takeaways leading to Clemson’s last 10 points, helping the Tigers create some breathing room late in their 37th consecutive win at home.
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