Story by Nikki Hood
Raleigh, NC: With ghouls and goblins packed in Carter Finley Stadium, Clemson’s nightmare season continued with a 24-17 loss to NC State Saturday afternoon.
Despite a fourth-quarter comeback, Clemson just couldn’t overcome the catastrophic turnover and big plays on defense that have been a theme of the 2023 season, as two of the Wolfpack’s touchdowns came off big plays, and the third was an interception returned for a touchdown by linebacker Payton Wilson.
Clemson fell to 4-4 overall and 2-4 in the ACC, while NC State improved to 5-3 and 2-2. The Tigers have lost back-to-back games for the first time since 2011 and two of the last three against the Wolfpack.
The Tigers once again outgained their opponent on offense – 364 to 202 – but couldn’t overcome the turnovers or the slow start. Quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 33-of-50 passes for 263 yards but threw two interceptions. Running back Phil Mafah carried the ball 16 times for 84 yards and tight end Jake Briningstool was Clemson’s leading receiver for the second consecutive week with eight catches for 93 yards.
NC State led 10-7 at halftime after Clemson missed a field goal as time expired, but everything fell apart in the third quarter as Wilson returned a tipped ball 15-yard for a score and on defense, Clemson called a zero blitz on third down, leaving Toriano Pride one-on-one with Kevin Concepcion who slipped out of a tackle for a 72-yard touchdown.
Clemson made it a game in the fourth quarter with a one-yard touchdown run by Phil Mafah and a 19-yard field goal by Jonathan Weitz to make it a 24-17 game with 6:57 to play. Klubnik and the offense got the ball back on their own eight-yard line with 4:23 to play, but the Wolfpack forced a third-and-19 after sacking Klubnik, and the Tigers never could recover.
Clemson will host Notre Dame next Saturday at noon.