RALEIGH, N.C. – The No. 4 Clemson football team handed No. 20 NC State its first ACC loss of the year on Saturday, defeating the Wolfpack 38-31 at Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday. With the win, Clemson improved to 8-1 overall and 6-1 in the ACC, while NC State slipped to 6-3 on the year and 4-1 in conference play.
Offensively, the Tigers were sparked by Deon Cain, who was Kelly Bryant’s favorite target and amassed 84 yards on a career-high nine catches, and Tavien Feaster, whose 89-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter was tied for the third-longest run in Clemson history. Defensively, Ryan Carter shone for Clemson, who had three pass breakups and hauled in a fourth-quarter interception that set up the Tigers’ final score of the game.
NC State got on the board less than two minutes into the contest, turning a Tim Kidd-Glass interception at the Clemson 40-yard line into a touchdown three plays later, when Ryan Finley connected with Kelvin Harmon for a 40-yard scoring pass. Clemson evened the score with nine minutes left in the first quarter on Ray-Ray McCloud’s 77-yard punt return touchdown, the Tigers’ first since 2014. Jaylen Samuels then gave the Wolfpack a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter on a one-yard scoring run.
The Tigers found the endzone less than a minute into the second quarter when Kelly Bryant ran for a 10-yard touchdown, bringing the score to 14-14. NC State regained the lead a few minutes later, as Finley connected with Samuels for a seven-yard touchdown that put the Wolfpack up 21-14. An Alex Spence 26-yard field goal cut the Wolfpack’s lead to 21-17 with five minutes remaining in the first half. Each team then went on to miss a field goal, and 21-17 was the score heading into the break.
Cain opened the third quarter scoring with only three and a half minutes left in it on a 12-yard scoring pass from Bryant, putting the Tigers up 24-21. As time was expiring in the quarter, Feaster broke loose for his 89-yard touchdown run, giving Clemson its largest lead of the game heading into the final quarter.
Finley found Jakobi Meyers for a 15-yard score just two and a half minutes into the fourth quarter, narrowing Clemson’s lead to three points. On the Wolfpack’s next drive, Carter’s interception allowed for the Tigers to drive down and retake a 10-point lead on Bryant’s second rushing touchdown of the day. A Kyle Bambard 22-yard field goal left Clemson’s lead at a touchdown with just under two minutes remaining in the game, and the game ended with K’Von Wallace intercepting Finley’s final pass with no time left on the clock.
Clemson returns home to face the Florida State Seminoles next Saturday in Death Valley.
•This was Clemson’s ninth straight win over a top 25 team, extending a school record. It also tied the ACC record of nine in a row. Florida State also had a nine-game winning streak against top 25 teams from 2012-14.
•Clemson is now 39-3 over its last 42 games.
•Clemson has now won 23 of its last 25 ACC games, including 13 of the last 14 away from home against league foes.
•Clemson has won six straight over NC State and 13 of the last 14.
•Clemson has now won seven in a row against teams it defeated by a touchdown or less in the previous season.
•Clemson is 8-0 vs. N.C. State since 2004 when the Wolfpack enters the game with a winning record.
•Clemson is now 84-21 in the decade of the 2010s, an 80 percent mark. The most wins in a decade for the Clemson program is 87 in the 1980s.
•Clemson’s 2017 senior class is now 27-4 against ACC teams in the regular season. The record is 28-4 by the seniors of 2015 and 2016, so this class can tie the record with a win next week against Florida State.
•This was Clemson’s third win on the road over a top 25 team this year. Earlier, Clemson won at top 25 teams (entering the game) on the road from Louisville and Virginia Tech. This is the first time since 1950 that Clemson has won three road games over top 25 teams in the same year.
•Clemson is now 13-1 vs. Top 25 teams over the last three years. The only loss is the National Championship loss at the end of the 2015 season to Alabama, 45-40. Only Alabama has more wins than Clemson over top 25 teams over the last three years. The Crimson Tide has 18 going into tonight’s game against a top 25 LSU team.
•When N.C. State scored a touchdown after a Clemson turnover on their first drive of the game, it was the first time this year that Clemson’s defense gave up a touchdown after a Clemson turnover. Clemson had given up just six points off turnovers all year entering this game.
•Clemson had 14 points and 202 yards in the third quarter.
•Clemson is 69-2 since 2011 when leading going into the fourth quarter.
•Clemson rushed for over 200 yards in this game. The Tigers are now 44-1 under Dabo Swinney with at least 200 yards rushing, and this was the 40th consecutive win when rushing for at least 200 yards.
•Dabo Swinney moved into second place on Clemson’s all-time wins list and now has 97. He moved ahead of Danny Ford, who had a 96-29-4 record. Swinney is now 97-29-4. Frank Howard is the record-holder with 165.
•Swinney is now the record-holder for wins by a Clemson head coach as an ACC coach. Entering today, Swinney, Howard and Ford all had 96 wins since the ACC was formed in 1953.
•Swinney is now fifth in ACC history in wins by a league coach with 97. Next on the list is Bill Dooley, who had 98 while coaching for North Carolina and Virginia Tech.
•Swinney is now 63-17 in his 10 years against ACC teams.
•Coach Swinney is now 22-2 against ACC teams from the state of North Carolina, including 15 wins in a row since NC State defeated the Tigers 37-13 in 2011.
•Offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt has started 38 of the last 39 games at left tackle.
•Deon Cain has now caught a pass in 32 consecutive games. Hunter Renfrow now has a streak of 23 in a row. The Clemson record is 38 in a row by Artavis Scott, who played from 2014-16.
•Ray-Ray McCloud had a 77-yard punt return in the first quarter. It was the first punt return for a touchdown by a Clemson player since the 2014 Louisville game, when Adam Humphries returned a punt 72 yards for a score in a 23-17 Clemson win.
•McCloud’s punt return was the first for a touchdown by a Clemson player on the road since 2000 at Virginia when Joe Don Reames went 69 yards for a touchdown.
•McCloud’s 77-yard return for a score was the longest by a Clemson player since C.J. Spiller had a 77-yard punt return for a score against Boston College in 2009.
•Tavien Feaster’s 89-yard run on the last play of the third quarter tied for the third longest run by a Clemson player in history. It is the longest by a Clemson player since 1993 when Derrick Witherspoon had an 89-yard run against Maryland.
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