No. 3 Clemson, State take look in mirror after tight one in Raleigh

Sep. 20, 2013 @ 04:31 PM

Third-ranked Clemson didn't show its high-scoring form for much of Thursday night's trip to N.C. State. While the Tigers were still good enough to stay unbeaten, it left them trying to figure out what was wrong afterward.

Clemson didn't score its first touchdown until late in the first half and didn't build a comfortable lead until early in the fourth quarter of a 26-14 win, though the Tigers took advantage of a critical third-quarter sequence to seize momentum.

Clemson came in averaging 45 points and 490 yards, but finished with 415 yards in its lowest scoring performance of the young season.

"It just wasn't smooth," said quarterback Tajh Boyd, who threw three touchdown passes. "I don't really know if it was anxiety or having 12 days off or it just wasn't as rhythmful as we wanted it to be. Then, we came back in the second half and did some great things."

Boyd's 30-yard scoring pass to Martavis Bryant capped the game-turning sequence — including an apparent Wolfpack touchdown negated by an official's whistle — that put the Tigers (3-0, 1-0 ACC) in control. Boyd found Bryant for another touchdown, with Bryant snatching the ball from defender Niles Clark for a 15-yard score that made it a three-possession game early in the fourth.

Boyd threw for 244 yards on 24-for-37 passing, with his first scoring toss coming on an 11-yarder to Sam Cooper with 2:23 left in the second that gave the Tigers a 13-7 halftime lead.

"Tajh is a perfectionist. That's the way he is in practice," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "That's the way he is all the time. He can't stand when he feels like he made a mistake. I just told him, 'Go to the next play.' I told (offensive coordinator Chad Morris), 'Just keep calling the game. We'll get him going.'"

Shadrach Thornton scored the Wolfpack's first touchdown on a 21-yard run in the second for a 7-6 lead, but N.C. State (2-1, 0-1) couldn't complete the upset in coach Dave Doeren's first league game.

"It's not a moral victory by any means," Doeren said. "We do not accept losing here. But I'm proud of the way we competed."

The Tigers entered Raleigh with their highest ranking in 25 years and a prime spot in the national championship chase. They also came in with memories of their inexplicably bad performance here two seasons earlier, when the Wolfpack scored 27 second-quarter points en route to a 37-13 rout of the then-No. 7 Tigers.

N.C. State followed that win with an upset of No. 3 Florida State here last year. But N.C. State's hopes of beating a top-10 team at home for the third straight season essentially ended in one frustrating sequence.

Receiver Bryan Underwood sprinted around the right side for what appeared to be an 83-yard touchdown to tie the game at 13 midway through the third. But officials ruled Underwood stepped on the sideline at the Clemson 47 and blew the play dead, making it an unreviewable play — replays appeared to show him remaining inbounds — that led to boos raining down from the Carter-Finley Stadium stands.

"It was right in front of me," Doeren said. "He didn't go out of bounds. Unfortunately they blew it dead so they couldn't review it. It's an unfortunate deal. I know the guy felt bad about it. You can't do anything about it. That's just the way it is."

Three plays later, Clemson's Vic Beasley knocked the ball loose from Pete Thomas on a sack for a fumble recovered by Spencer Shuey. The Tigers pounced on the opportunity, with Boyd hitting Bryant for the 30-yard score that made it 20-7 with 5:25 left in the quarter.

Bryant's impressive grab for his second touchdown on Clemson's next drive made it 26-7 with 11:27 left — and the booing over the Underwood call continued.

"It hurts, but hey, things happen in games," Underwood said. "So you've got to bounce back with them, good or bad."

N.C. State finished with 378 total yards, but failed to convert its first eight third-down tries and finished 3 for 16 for the game.

 

BY AARON BEARD

Associated Press

RALEIGH — One sequence — a referee's whistle, a turnover and a touchdown — changed everything for N.C. State in its first Atlantic Coast Conference game under coach Dave Doeren.

The Wolfpack hung with No. 3 Clemson through the first half Thursday night and appeared to have momentum on Bryan Underwood's long sideline run for a touchdown. But a referee ruled him out of bounds, then Clemson capitalized on an N.C. State turnover in a game-changing sequence in the Tigers' 26-14 win.

TV replays appeared to show Underwood staying just inside the sideline for an 83-yard score to tie the game, but the whistle made the play unreviewable and gave the ball to the Wolfpack at the Clemson 47. Pete Thomas fumbled on a sack three plays later, then Tajh Boyd threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Martavis Bryant to make it 20-7.

"It's just disappointing when have a big play like that and it doesn't count," Doeren said. "You've just got to move on. You can't complain about things you can't control. ... Unfortunately it cost us some points."

Doeren said the call came right in front of him and that Underwood didn't step out.

"You've got to get some breaks throughout your season if you're trying to have a great year," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "We got a couple breaks, there's no question about it. ... That's a tough break for them, and a good break for us."

For Clemson (3-0, 1-0 ACC), Boyd threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns, two to Bryant. On the second, Bryant snatched the ball from defender Niles Clark for a 15-yard score that helped the Tigers make it a three-possession game.

Sammy Watkins added 10 catches for 96 yards on a night when Clemson's explosive offense didn't manage many big plays yet finished with 415 yards.

Shadrach Thornton scored the Wolfpack's first touchdown on a 21-yard run in the second quarter. N.C. State (2-1, 0-1) led 7-6 at that point but couldn't complete the upset.

The Tigers entered Raleigh with their highest ranking in 25 years and a prime spot in the national championship chase. They also came with memories of their inexplicably bad performance here two seasons earlier, when the Wolfpack scored 27 second-quarter points en route to a 37-13 rout of the then-No. 7 Tigers.

N.C. State followed that win with an upset of No. 3 Florida State here last year, and Doeren — the former Northern Illinois coach — said that history gave his veterans confidence they could do it again.

But N.C. State's hopes of beating a Top 10 team at home for the third straight season essentially ended in that frustrating sequence midway through the third.

The Underwood call led to boos raining down from the Carter-Finley Stadium stands and continued until after Bryant's second score made it 26-7 with 11:27 left.

Sam Cooper added an 11-yard touchdown catch with 2:23 left in the second quarter that gave the Tigers a 13-7 halftime lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Thomas threw for 213 yards on 20-for-36 passing for the Wolfpack. He ran for a 4-yard score to cap a 23-play scoring drive with 3:50 left.

N.C. State finished with 378 total yards, but failed to convert its first eight third-down tries and finished 3 for 16 for the game.

Clemson reserve left tackle Isaiah Battle was ejected for a late shove to the facemask of N.C. State's Jarvis Byrd with 1:33 left.

No. 3 CLEMSON 26, NC STATE 14
Clemson 3 10 7 6—26
NC State 0 7 0 7—14
First Quarter

Clem—FG Catanzaro 49, 9:58.

Second Quarter

Clem—FG Catanzaro 45, 14:46.

NCSt—Thornton 21 run (Sade kick), 11:03.

Clem—Cooper 11 pass from Boyd (Catanzaro kick), 2:23.

Third Quarter

Clem—Bryant 30 pass from Boyd (Catanzaro kick), 5:25.

Fourth Quarter

Clem—Bryant 15 pass from Boyd (run failed), 11:27.

NCSt—Thomas 4 run (Sade kick), 3:50.

A—57,583.

———

  Clem NCSt
First downs 22 18
Rushes-yards 40-171 36-165
Passing 244 213
Comp-Att-Int 24-37-0 20-37-1
Return Yards 8 0
Punts-Avg. 5-36.4 6-40.2
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 6-45 9-57
Time of Possession 27:11 32:49

———

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Clemson, McDowell 14-68, Howard 7-45, Boyd 13-38,

Brooks 5-17, S.Watkins 1-3. NC State, Underwood 2-54, Thomas 14-30,

Shirreffs 4-23, Thornton 1-21, R.Smith 3-17, Dayes 6-16, Creecy 6-4.

PASSING—Clemson, Boyd 24-37-0-244. NC State, Thomas 20-36-1-213,

Team 0-1-0-0.

RECEIVING—Clemson, S.Watkins 10-96, Bryant 6-73, Hopper 4-25,

M.Williams 1-25, Cooper 1-11, McDowell 1-10, Seckinger 1-4. NC State,

R.Smith 5-51, Underwood 4-35, Payton 3-26, Valdes-Scantling 2-27,

Ramos 2-23, Cherry 2-16, Thornton 1-32, Purvis 1-3.