NC State started off with a bang as Finely threw a 39 yard screen pass to Nyheim Hines but three false starts and a missed field goal left the Wolfpack empty handed. On Clemson’s first drive, the Tigers moved the ball down the field until Gallman fumbled and was shaken up on a hard hit.
On the second play of that drive the Wolfpack threw a double pass from Finley to Ben Grazen to Jaylen Samuels went for 38 yards; but yet again State walked away with zero points because two penalties pushed the Wolfpack back to 4th and 35.
Clemson then marched down the field only to be held to a 25-yard field goal on a 13 play 77-yard drive that took 4:25 minutes. The Tigers took a 3-0 lead with 1:17 left in the first quarter.
Ryan Finely ran the quarterback draw for 17 yards on the first play of the drive, State committed a false start, and Finely threw a 15 yard pass to Hines to end the first quarter.
The Wolfpack are leading in offense because of some huge plays and nice drives down the field, but with eight penalties for 76 yards in one quarter, they have shot themselves in both feet with a machine gun. They had good chance to be up 10-3 or 14-3 early, but instead were behind 3-0.
Keeping in line with shooting themselves in the foot, Finely threw a pass which was tipped by Ryan Carter and landed in the hands of true freshman K’Von Wallace for his first career interception and Finely’s first interception of the year.
The Tigers couldn’t take advantage of this break as they went three and out, but State went three and out. Ray Ray McCloud muffed the punt fair catch but recovered his own fumble.
The Tigers were put in a 4th and 1 situation, but a punt formation direct snap to Christian Wilkins and he rushed for 10 yards on his first career rush to give the Tigers a first down. Two tough catches by Mike Williams gave the Tigers first and goal on the five but the Tigers failed to punch it in on 4th and goal at the one.
State started out their next drive high on momentum and backed up on the one-yard line with 7:55 left in the first half. State drove down the field with a nice time eating drive that utilized a mixture of short passes and screens.
The Tigers bent until State was inside the red zone, and then on 2nd and 9 Ryan Carter snuffed the screen for a loss of five and a holding penalty put the Wolfpack in 3rd and 24. A 18 yard pass to Louis put the Wolfpack in field goal range and this time Kyle Bambard nailed a 28-yard field goal with 2:03 to play to tie the game 3-3. The drive was 14 plays for 88 yards and took 5:52 off the clock.
Starting out with 2:03 left in the first half, Watson threw five straight complete passes to take Clemson down to the State 24-yard line before being sacked on 2nd and 5 for a loss of nine yards. An incomplete pass on 3rd and 14 put the Tigers in 4th and 14 on State’s 33-yard line. Since the Tigers were in no man’s land, they went for it on 4th down and Watson threw a 16-yard laser to McCloud for the first down at the State 17.
For the second home game in a row, the Tigers were aggressive to end the first half; and this aggression paid off as Mike Williams caught a 13-yard touchdown pass with ten seconds left. Watson was 8-9 for 84 yards and a touchdown on this drive. The ten play, 75 yard, 1:53 drive to put Clemson up 10-3 was Clemson’s best drive all day. The NC State Hail Mary attempt ended in a sack, and Clemson gets the ball to start off the second half.
NC State has gone away from their typical game plan of running the ball with Matt Dayes in favor of airing it out with Finely. Finely has 25 attempts passing whilst Dayes has seven attempts rushing. The Pack are averaging 7.2 yards per play while the Tigers are averaging 5.6 yards per play.
State has relied heavily on trick plays and screen passes in order to take advantage of Clemson’s aggressive defense and it has worked out well for them. While the scoreboard doesn’t reflect it, the Wolfpack offense has taken the Tiger’s lunch money as they have 275 yards in the first half.
State’s problem is that they have nine penalties for 86 yards and at the wrong times, while the Tigers have had zero penalties in the first half.
The Tigers struggled early on offense before a nice two-minute drill gave them a touchdown and some prettier statistics to enter halftime with. Since Wayne Gallman was hurt the running game has been non existent, showing his importance to the offense with what he does both running and without the ball in his hands.
The Tigers are only two for seven on third down, but are two for three on fourth down thus far. Clemson’s defensive line has been unusually quiet, and the secondary looks better than the statistics have suggested because they have been very active in both the running and passing game. Watson looked off to start the game but the two-minute drill seemed to calm him down.
Clemson needs to improve their pass rushing on defense and they should go up tempo more often on offense, but Clemson should come out and put the game away in the second half.