Clemson didn’t need the good fortune of last season, a missed 33 yard field goal on the final play of regulation, to defeat NC State Saturday night in Raleigh. The Tigers just needed to pick up their game in the second half. And that they did turning the game their way with a 14-0 third quarter and building enough of a lead that they could hang on for a 38-31 win.
The victory moves the Tigers to within a victory of clinching another ACC Atlantic Division title, something they can accomplish at home next week against Florida State.
Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley, relying primarily on short routes except for a 40 yard scoring pass on State’s third play of the game, completed his first 15 passes while Clemson’s Kelly Bryant missed his first five, including an interception that set up the Wolfpack’s first score.
State led 14-7 after a quarter and 21-17 at halftime. But the Tigers dominated the third quarter holding state to 50 yards while Bryant tossed a 12 yard touchdown pass to Deon Cain and Taviene Feaster broke free on an 89 yard scoring run.
The Tigers needed those scores as the Wolfpack mounted a fourth quarter rally that gave them the game’s final possession with a chance to tie or win. The Clemson defense made sure that didn’t happen, but not without a scare.
State drove into Clemson territory and an apparent pass completion would have put the ball at the four. But motion on State was called and on the next play from the 33, the last one of the game, K’Von Wallace intercepted Finley at the 9. Ball game.
After his slow start Bryant got his offense into high gear and finished with 191 passing yards, 88 rushing yards and 3 total touchdowns. And Feaster added a career high 105 rushing yards on just 7 carries for his first 100 yard rushing game as a Tiger.
Another standout for Clemson was Ray-Ray McCloud. He changed his uniform number for the game to 21 instead of 34 because he was going to be used a cornerback due to depth issues there and linebacker Kendall Joseph already has the #34 jersey.
So, sporting the same number as NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, who was known for his exploits in all three phases of the game, McCloud did his best impersonation. He returned a punt 77 yards for Clemson’s first touchdown, played receiver and was in at cornerback on State’s last possession
This was one of those games Clemson won despite having fewer yards, first downs, offensive plays and possession time. They made up for that with big plays by McCloud and Feaster, the steadiness of Bryant and a defense that just found a way to pull another one out of the fire.
Dabo Swinney meets with media after NC State win
Kelly Bryant not surprised game went to the end
Here’s my game recap from Periscope:
— SportsTalk (@sportstalksc) November 5, 2017