Clemson’s desperate bid to make it back to the college football playoff continued with a trip to Raleigh to take on the NC State Wolfpack. Last week the playoff committee saw fit to put Penn State at #4 ahead of the #5 Tigers. If you think Minnesota’s upset of the Nittany Lions means Clemson will automatically, think again. Several of us at STS are waiting to hear the committee’s explanation next week that Minnesota’s win means they are deserving of the #4 spot and Penn State should still be ahead of the Tigers. Ok, I’m being a little sarcastic, but I think I share the frustration of many Tiger fans when it comes to the rankings this year. Maybe another blowout win wouldn’t be too damaging to the Tiger’s playoff hopes.
Clemson got the ball first and Joseph Ngata ran the kickoff out to the 16. On first down, Trevor Lawrence rolled right and hit Tee Higgins for 10 yards. Travis Etienne took it up the middle for a couple and then Lawrence hit Higgins for another 1st down out to the 43. Etienne picked up 4 yards running to the right outside then Lawrence hit Justyn Ross down to the NC State 33. Etienne picked up another 8 and then Ross took a bubble screen to the 13. Lawrence ran it for 6 yards and on the next play he took it on into the end zone. Higgins took a tough shot to the lower back, but he walked it off to the sideline. After the B.T. Potter extra point, Clemson led 7-0 with 10:56 left in the quarter. The Wolfpack tested the middle of the Tiger defense on 1st down and got nothing. They picked up 4 on 2nd down but the 3rd down pass sailed out of bounds and they had to punt. Amari Rodgers had a great return but a block in the back brought it back to the Tiger 8 yard line.
Lawrence started the drive with a run out to the 36. He had to throw it away on 1st down but he hit Ross for a 1st down out to the 46. Etienne broke through the middle down to the State 39. Lawrence had Higgins in the end zone, but Tee couldn’t hold onto it. On 2nd down Lawrence hit Ngata for 9 yards and Lyn-J Dixon moved the chains on 3rd down. State defended him well on 1st down and he lost 2. Coverage was good on 2nd down and Lawrence had to scramble but he picked up 8, making it 3rd and 4. Lawrence took a designed run up the middle but didn’t get the yardage and the Tigers were called for holding anyway. On 3rd & 14 he hit Higgins down the left sideline for the score. The Tigers led 14-0 with 5 minutes left in the 1st quarter. The Wolfpack lost a yard on 1st down and then fumbled, caused by Jamie Skalskie, and Chad Smith recovered and took it down to the Wolfpack 3.
An Etienne run and shovel pass were all that was needed to get into the end zone. The Tigers led 21-0. State had a couple of good plays. including a 46-yard run, but penalties negated them. The State QB lost the ball and Tyler Davis fell on it at the Wolfpack 21. The Tigers then tried some razzle dazzle with Etienne throwing it back to Lawrence who picked up a couple of yards. Then the Tiger went back to the tried and true, handing it to Etienne who took it to the house. Clemson was up 28-0 with 1:30 still left in the quarter. The Wolfpack picked up 6 on first down and then fizzled but a offside penalty kept the drive alive. As the 2nd quarter began, State faced a 3rd & 11 and picked it up on a pass over the middle. The Tiger had enough and dispatched the Wolfpack offense. The punt was fair caught at the Tiger 13 yard line.
Lawrence looked deep for Ngata down the right sideline, but the pass fell short. Higgins was wide open on a crossing route but dropped the ball as he looked downfield. Lawrence scrambled for 5 yards but needed 10. State jumped offside on the punt, giving the Tigers a 1st down. Rodgers took a pitch but State defended it well and dropped him for a 3-yard loss. Lawrence hit Higgins on an out route to the Tiger 48 for the 1st down. Dixon got 4 yards and Etienne was stopped for no gain on a flare pass to the left. Lawrence’s pass over the middle fell short and Clemson had to punt. A facemask penalty on the Tigers put the ball at the State 29.
State couldn’t do much against the Tiger defense on their possession and punted. Rodgers returned it to the Tiger 25. Lawrence hit Ngata for 9 yards on 1st down and Etienne picked up the first down with a 4-yard run. Then he ran wide left and got loose for 26 yards down to the State 35. A couple of plays later, Lawrence hit Etienne on a wheel route for 27 yards. Etienne then ran it to the 1 yard line. The beef package came in and left guard John Simpson lined up at tailback and ran it in. The Tigers led 35-0 with 4:30 left in the half.
The Wolpack ran three plays and picked up 1 yard. Rodgers fair caught the punt at the Tiger 30. Dixon took a draw wide left and picked up 15 yards but then he missed his blitz block and Lawrence was sacked. On 3rd & 15 Dixon picked up 10 on a screen out to midfield. Going for it on 4th & 5, Dixon picked up 17 yards on a pass reception. At the end he fumbled but was able to recover it. Lawrence then hit Ross down the middle for a 33-yard touchdown. The score was 42-0 with 45 seconds left in the half. State ripped off a long run and a pass put them at the Tiger 15, but a couple of plays later Xavier Thomas recovered a fumbled snap. Dixon had a nice run but the clock ran out.
Clemson kicked off to start the second half. State had a good possession and broke a 53-yard run to make it 42-7 with a bit over 13 minutes left in the quarter. The Tigers started at their 25 and a short pass to Rodgers, a false start, and a Lawrence scramble set up 3rd & 6. Lawrence hit Rodgers over the middle to pick up the 1st down. Etienne picked up 4 yards on 1st down and Frank Ladson picked up the 1st down. Etienne ran for 4 yards and then a couple more to set up 3rd & 4. A false start made it 3rd & 9. A snap infraction pushed them back to 3rd & 14. Etienne ran hard to make it 4th & 3. Diondre Overton made a nice catch to move it to the Wolfpack 6, 1st and goal. Dixon slipped and lost 2 yards on 1st down. Etienne then muscled his way into the end zone to make it 49-7 Tigers with 6:21 left in the 3rd quarter. The Wolfpack couldn’t do much and then ripped of a 75-yard punt (of course they did) that rolled into the end zone.
Chase Brice came in at QB and handed the ball to Dixon who picked up a 1st down, but a holding penalty brought it back. Will Swinney caught a pass for the 1st down. An incomplete pass and a TFL on Dixon set up 3rd & 14. The Tigers couldn’t convert it and punted. The ball rolled down to the State 15. Thanks to sloppy Tiger play, penalties mainly, the Wolfpack moved into Tiger territory. A long pass to the TE moved the ball inside the 10. An illegal formation penalty pushed them back to the 12. A hands to the face pushed them back even farther. Eventually it was 3rd & goal from the 29. State lined up for a field goal and they got it. Clemson led 49-10 13:49 left.
Brice mishandled the 1st down snap and lost 10 yards and nothing good happened after that. Clemson punted and State took over at their 35. A perfectly called screen play on 3rd down netted 19 yards into Tiger territory. Intentional grounding pushed them back, but the STate QB eluded a rush and picked up good yardage to set up 3rd & 9. A nice throw over the middle netted the 1st down. A few plays later, they had 1st and goal from the 10. The first three plays netted 1 yard. On 4th & goal, the pass sailed out of the back of the end zone.
Clemson didn’t do too much with their possession, a 3rd down holding penalty killed the drive. The punt rolled down and the State player lost his mind and tried to jump on the ball as it was rolling to a stop. Clemson recovered it at the 23. Michel Dukes and Brice runs moved the ball to the 4. On 1st & goal, Dukes pushed it down to the 1. A couple of plays later, Dukes punched it in. Clemson led 55-10 after Skalskie attempted the PAT and missed it wide left. That was the final score.
The Tigers took care of business and it will be interesting to see what the playoff committee thinks of the situation. You would think that Clemson would move up to #3 but who knows. I’m betting Alabama ends up at #4 since LSU didn’t convincingly beat them, and, well, everyone knows that SEC teams are just better than anyone else. What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below. Check back with us over the next few days for reviews and previews, and thanks for stopping by.