Clemson may or may not be a national title contender, but they battled back to take one more step toward a potential ACC championship run Thursday night. After a sluggish start, Clemson pulled away for a road win at North Carolina State, 26-14. Tajh Boyd had a three-touchdown night while passing for 244 yards, Martavis Bryant had two touchdowns and Sammy Watkins had 96 receiving yards for the Tigers.
North Carolina State appeared to have taken the lead when Bryan Underwood took a handoff from his own 17-yard line and swept up the right sideline all the way for a touchdown. Despite video replay showing it appeared Underwood kept his feet in on his dash up the right side of the field, officials blew the play dead after 36 yards thinking he stepped out of bounds. The play was not reviewed in the booth and North Carolina State did not challenge the ruling. This is the play in question.
To pour some salt on the wound, three plays later quarterback Pete Thomas was sacked by Clemson’s Vic Beasley, jarring the ball loose and recovered by the Tigers. Five plays later Boyd connected with Martavis Bryant for a 30-yard touchdown pass and a 20-7 lead. This all developed in a span of just over two minutes of game time, and it may have turned the entire game around.
Clemson would go on to score another touchdown early in the fourth quarter and never looked back.
Of course we will never know what would have happened if North Carolina State had taken a 14-13 lead. Maybe Clemson comes back down field to take the lead anyway. But maybe they don’t and North Carolina State holds on.
We can spend plenty of time looking back and asking “What if?” but instead let’s turn the page and discuss what is next. The big question may be if you believe Clemson is a BCS contender based on what we witnessed Thursday night. The Tigers probably didn’t convince many people of that idea, although there is something to be said for the way this team responded after getting a good battle from North Carolina State. We will be quick to look ahead to October 19 when Clemson hosts Florida State. That game could loom large for the ACC picture. If Clemson can reach their next bye week without a loss, which appears likely if they beat Florida State, then the games at home against Georgia Tech and at South Carolina could be very interesting. This assuming Clemson does not fall victim to an upset along the way, which sometimes feels more a matter of “when” and not “if.”
As for North Carolina State, the defense managed to come up with some good stops early on but ended up getting beat on some deep passes in the second half. For the most part, the Wolfpack played Clemson pretty evenly. Penalties became a factor for the home team and the lone turnover of the game, as mentioned above, came at a real unfortunate time. North Carolina State probably doesn’t have the talent to compete for an ACC title, but this could be a team nobody in the ACC will want to play this fall. A bowl game is absolutely within view for the Wolfpack this year.
Prior to the start of the 2015 season, most prognosticators had the SEC West coming down to either Alabama or Auburn. Five weeks into the season, neither of those teams sit at the top of the divisional heap.
With Kyle Allen triggering the offense and John Chavis orchestrating a virtuoso defensive performance, No. 14 Texas A&M had little trouble dispatching No. 21 Mississippi State in a 30-17 win that, for whatever reason, seemed much easier than the score makes it look. The 5-0 Aggies carried a 24-10 lead into halftime, and the 3-2 Bulldogs could only get as close as 10 points, 27-17, early in the fourth quarter on a Dak Prescott touchdown run.
As was the case in the first half, the true sophomore Allen was a big reason for the Aggies success.
Allen accounted for a career-high 385 yards of total offense, 322 passing and 63 rushing. The passing yardage is second only to the 358 he put up in last Saturday’s win over Arkansas, while the rushing yards are the most of his young career.
Tra Carson added 109 yards rushing and a touchdown to supplement the passing game.
The Bulldogs were able to move the ball in the second half — 233 yards in the last two quarters, compared to 173 in the first two — but could never mount much of a scoring threat outside of Prescott’s run that capped a 10-play, 68-yard drive. Prescott finished with more than 300 yards of offense, 210 passing and 96 rushing.
With the win. A&M moves to 2-0 in SEC play. LSU, also at 2-0, is the only other undefeated team in league play in the West. After a bye weekend, A&M will have its hands full the next two games as it hosts Alabama and travel to Oxford to face Ole Miss.
It is typically unwise to go overboard with reactions based on any one week of the college football schedule, but something learned on Saturday in the SEC is the No. 25 Florida Gators (5-0, 3-0 SEC) just might be the team to beat in the SEC East Division. The Gators were not in need of last-minute heroics the way they were a week ago. With No. 3 Ole Miss rolling into Gainesville, the Gators stomped and drowned the Rebels in The Swamp the way Florida teams of years past used to do their opponents, 38-10.
The offense was locked in. Quarterback Will Grier, flu and all, completed 24 of his 29 passing attempts for 271 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Kelvin Taylor picked up 83 yards on the ground and Demarcus Robinson had eight catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. The Gators offense played the game without a single turnover and they had the edge in time of possession.
The defense incredible. There was nothing Ole Miss could do about the outcome of the game because for the first time in years it was the Florida Gators setting the tone from the start and following through until the clock expired in the fourth quarter. By the time the Rebels reached the end zone, which they had done plenty of times leading up to this game, the Gators were already ahead 38-3 in the fourth quarter. Chad Kelly had 259 passing yards and a touchdown and he was also the leading rusher for Ole Miss with 40 yards. Turnovers doomed Ole Miss, with four turnovers leading to 20 points for the Gators.
Jim McElwain has Florida heading in the right direction, and it’s been a long time coming for the program. Now we will see if McElwain can keep this momentum going. Next week Florida visits Missouri, who has represented the SEC East in the SEC Championship Game each of the past two seasons. After that is the annual rivalry game with Georgia in Jacksonville. These next two weeks will help Florida prove itself as the new top threat in the SEC East. Right now, at this point in time, there should be no arguing that is the case after Missouri has lost to Kentucky and Georgia went down in flames at home against Alabama.
Florida may not be back as a national title contender, but they are certainly more than capable of making a run back to the top of the SEC East and getting back to Atlanta. This division is Florida’s to lose.
Ole Miss will get a chance to regroup and put up 60 points next week at home against New Mexico State before a road game at Memphis.