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Textile Bowl Wins Continue to Pile Up: Analysis of Clemson’s 38-31 win over NC State

Make it six in a row and 13 of 14. The Tigers continued their domination of the Textile Bowl with yet another close victory over the NC State Wolfpack.

Clemson v North Carolina State Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

If you’ve followed this blog over the past four months, you know how sweet this win was for me, given my vigorous insistence that NC State never beats us, always falls short, and would surely do so again. Further, I’ve argued that they’re a mediocre program and we should all stop fretting over how tough it is to play them... given we’ve won 13/14 now.

Following the win, I was disappointed to see NC State fans throw trash at the refs and hear their Head Coach complain about officiating and question the legality of a laptop on the sidelines. For what it’s worth, I thought the officiating was solid enough. There were some huge game-changing penalties to be sure, but all the pass interference calls were egregious and undeniable. The big procedural penalty at the end was also a correct call. Even Doeren said as much in his post game presser.

Clemson v North Carolina State Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

For the second time in three games, Clemson’s defense was a bit of a disappointment. They did reasonably well stopping the run, but the depleted secondary struggled as Ryan Finley completed 31 passes for 338 yards. Coach Doeren called the coverage “soft” and his team certainly took advantage.

Mark Fields and Marcus Edmond were out while Tanner Muse played with a cast on his broken hand. A.J. Terrell also got banged up and left the Tigers down three cornerbacks.

Ray-Ray McCloud wore #21 and played CB, including on what ended up being the game’s final drive. Amir Trapp also saw the field. Although Coach Swinney spoke highly of Trapp, he was victimized on a long TD pass. On the game’s final drive, he allowed an 18-yard reception right over his head. Ryan Carter played great (huge INT), but he and Trayvon Mullen were the lone healthy “usuals” at cornerback.

Strangely, the defensive line struggled to get much pressure on the only somewhat mobile Ryan Finley. Clelin Ferrell played an exceptional game, but Dexter Lawrence got hurt and others were quiet. NC State’s offensive line is very good, but no better than Georgia or Notre Dame who Clemson could potentially play later.

In the end, the defense came through though. K’Von Wallace was the defensive hero as he broke up what would have been the game-tying catch and then intercepted a 4th down pass to seal the victory.

The offense put up 38 points in the win. Tavien Feaster’s 89-yard TD run was the Tigers’ longest play of the season. He and Etienne were the only RBs to get carries. They’ve emerged and look like a great duo moving forward.

Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow, and Ray-Ray McCloud all managed to stand out for different (positive) reasons. Some have questioned Cain’s effort on borderline catch-able balls this season. If there was any doubt around how hard he plays, it should be gone now. He turned in one of his best games of the year, reeling in 9 receptions for 84 tough yards and a TD. He reeled in several big-time catches to move the chains. Renfrow was quiet for most of the day, but on a key fourth down caught the ball short of the chains and broke a tackle to save the drive. McCloud didn’t register a catch (he drew a PI though), but contributed on defense at CB and finally found the end zone as a punt returner. It was one of the most shifty punt returns I’ve ever seen. Enjoy:

Kelly Bryant continues to provide the Clemson offense with a tremendous threat as a runner. He collected 88 rushing yards and 2 rushing TDs in this game. His passing remains inconsistent though. There were several instances of balls being well over or under-thown when the receiver was open for a big gain. A pass near the boundary to Hunter Renfrow stands out as one. A deep ball to Cain was another. This can’t happen if this team is to beat Alabama or even Miami.

Although it was closer than we’d like, Clemson went on the road and beat a ranked team despite missing three cornerbacks to injury. Amazing! NC State will have to settle for the Belk Bowl or something of that tier.

Stay tuned for our Clemson basketball season preview series on Monday and Tuesday of this week and our Blue Chip Depth Chart Analysis on Wednesday!