Of course it would come down to the N.C. State defense.
In overtime, with Clemson facing a 4th and five, trailing by six, the Wolfpack defense, one of the best in the ACC, forced an incomplete pass, upsetting the No. 9 Tigers, 27-21 at Carter-Finley Stadium. D.J. Uiagalele missed Justyn Ross in the back corner of the endzone, setting up a field rush from the State fans, desperate for a big time win. It was the first win over a Top-10 program for Dave Doeren, who was 0-for-10 in his previous attempts. It’s the fourth win over a Clemson team ranked in the Top-10 for the Wolfpack.
Christopher Dunn missed from 39-yards away with zero ticks on the clock, sending the game into overtime. Dunn missed three field goals during regulation. Clemson got the ball first in overtime and after two straight runs from .Uiagalele, freshman Will Shipley moved the ball inside the 10.
Uiagalele hit Ross for a 9-yard score in overtime to put Clemson ahead 21-14 in the extra session. The Pack answered, scoring on a 2-yard connection from Devin Leary to Thayer Thomas. Dunn tied the game at 21 after the PAT. The Wolfpack got the ball back right away and scored in two plays, this time a 22-yard pass from Leary to Devin Carter. By rule, N.C. State had to go for two and the conversion failed.
Clemson tied the game at 14 early in the fourth, going on its second 80-yard scoring drive of the contest. Will Shipley, who had been bottled up all day, broke for a gain of 16 and ended the drive with a 5-yard score. The big play for Clemson came on a 37-yard run from quarterback Uiagalele to set the Tigers up in the redzone for the first time.
Both teams exchanged scoring drives and turnovers in the first half and the game was deadlocked at 7 at the break.
Clemson covered 80-yards in five plays on its second drive of the game to go up 7-0 on a Uiagalelei 32-yard pass to Justyn Ross. N.C. State answered with a 10-play 54-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 9-yard touchdown pass to Emeka Emezie from Devin Leary.
N.C. State fumbled on its second drive of the second quarter, but didn’t surrender any points, and just four yards on the ensuing Clemson possession. Wolfpack linebacker Drake Thomas had the first N.C. State forced turnover of the day, picking off Uiagalelei to end the Tigers’ final drive of the half.
FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
Defense can get sacks
Sacks and pressure had been a major talking point for the N.C. State defense. Even though they were getting off the field in the previous games, sacks were hard to come by. The Wolfpack defense came into the game with five sacks in three games. Defensive tackle Corey Durden, filling in for C.J. Clark had back-to-back sacks in the first half to stop a Clemson drive.
NC State still has some growing up to do
Dave Doeren has talked about the maturity of this team, but they didn’t show it at times, especially in the first half. One week after having just three penalties versus Furman, N.C. State was flagged 11 times for 105 yards.
The Pack had nine penalties for 85 yards in the first half, including two personal fouls. The second one, a late hit on freshman tight end Ezemdi Udoh right before the half, moved N.C. State out of Clemson territory. After six straight runs and a Devin Leary pass and run moved the Pack back into Clemson territory, N.C. State was called for a chop block. The drive ended with a missed 53-yard attempt by Christopher Dunn.
NC State and the deep ball troubles
N.C. State is still struggling to connect on any deep passes. Leary made a living dumping off passes to Emeka Emezie and company, but the ability to take the top off the Clemson defense was one failed pass play after the other.
In the first half Leary missed Carter as the ball was just a hair out of reach. On the team’s first drive of the third quarter, Leary missed Anthony Carter. Both players had a step and were in the endzone for what would have been an easy touchdown.
N.C. State can score the ball on anybody
Clemson hadn’t allowed a touchdown in three games, but it took N.C. State three drives to end that streak. The Tigers came into the game ranked in the top five in scoring defense. The most points Clemson surrendered before the game was 10 to No. 2 Georgia in the season opener.
Along with the 39-yard miss, Dunn missed two field goals from longer than 50 yards against Clemson. In the first half he missed one from 53 that would have put N.C. State up 10-7 at halftime. In the fourth quarter he missed one from 51 that would have given the Wolfpack a 17-14 advantage. Dunn’s career-long is 53.