Clemson extended their win streak over NC State to seven, and it was wholly glorious for the Tiger faithful. The Tigers had won seven straight before a 2011 upset in Raleigh and now they’ve again matched the mark which is the longest win streak in the rivalry.
With the Tigers claiming 14 of the last 15 Textile Bowls and posting a .672 win percentage against NC State all time (even better than the Tigers .617 win percentage in the Palmetto Bowl), it may be time to to stop the “NC State always gives Clemson a hard time” narrative and start the “NC State can hardly ever manage to pull out a win against Clemson” narrative.
With all the tension generated during the last two years, this victory was particularly cathartic. It finally pushed Coach Doeren to self-efficacy. He even said “give Dabo and his staff credit and his players...” “We didn’t play well and they’re really good...”
NC State is still ranked 34th in the S&P+ which is good for third in the conference behind Clemson and Miami. Ryan Finley may have been surpassed by Trevor Lawrence as the best QB in the conference, but he’s still a NFL-level passer, and Clemson completely shut him down. The Wolfpack have a very good pass blocking offensive line too. Despite having a pocket passer at QB and having just played Clemson’s ferocious defensive front, they still rank 4th in sack rate (unadjusted for opponent). The Tigers only got one sack, but their secondary came through in a big way. That is one of the biggest takeaways from this game. The safeties in particular looked very solid, including reserve Nolan Turner. We should feel very encouraged by that. NC State was overhyped, but they are still a solid team.
It was interesting to see NC State load up against the run so aggressively. One would have expected them to adjust when Lawrence was hitting out routes against man coverage and then killing them over the top, but they didn’t. We’ll see how opponents adjust now that they have this nugget of information. I would expect more blitzing.
With NC State’s defense heavily focused on stopping the run, only managed 39 yards on 15 carries. That’s his lowest yardage and YPC stat lines for any game this year. Fortunately, he cashed in three drives for touchdowns giving him 14 on the season. That ties him with FAU’s Devin Singletary for most rushing TDs in the nation. He remains 2nd in the nation in YPC at 8.16, behind only Memphis’s Derrell Henderson. He belongs behind only Tua Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray in the Heisman race.
One last side note about this game - Larrell Murchison was the defensive lineman who jumped on the Will Swinney fumble. That’s the player we wrote about months ago when discussing how Kirby Smart and UGA pulled a scholarship from a kid right before he announced his commitment publicly. I was happy to see his name in the box score as the one who scooped it up.