Dabo Swinney and his team have buried the term ‘Clemsoning’ over the past few seasons but did their best to revive it in a nerve-racking 24-17 overtime win as N.C. State nearly shocked the college football world.
Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley threw his first two interceptions of the season, the last of which came on the team’s first offensive snap of overtime to seal the loss. Running back Matthew Dayes was the real star of the show though, rushing for 106 yards and a touchdown to nearly help pull off the upset.
N.C. State had a chance to win it with a wild fourth quarter that saw them tie things up following a 14 play, 75 yard drive early in the frame. They got the ball back again and marched down the field in another 14 play drive that took over six minutes off the clock but kicker Kyle Bambard missed a 33 yarder as time expired to head to overtime.
Clemson signal-caller Deshaun Watson went into halftime on a hot streak by completing eight of nine on his way to a late scoring drive but couldn’t sustain the momentum after merging from the locker room. He threw a pick-six (the first in his career, by the way) just a few seconds into the third quarter to tie the game and breathe more life into the underdogs.
Watson eventually ended the day with a career high 39 completions for 378 yards and two scores as he became the team’s offense with virtually no running game. Tailback Wayne Gallman was injured on a helmet-to-helmet hit in the first half and had to be helped back to the locker room.
Issues in the red zone and turnovers plagued the Tigers offense all day long as a result. They were stuffed on fourth and goal from the one yard line early in the game and fumbled away another chance in the third quarter. Wide receiver Mike Williams fumbled too after crossing the 20 for the team’s fourth turnover of the day, which later led to a big return.
If there was one bright spot for Clemson in escaping with the win it was Christian Wilkins, who blocked a field goal in the third quarter and had the longest run of the day for the Tigers offense. He plays defensive tackle by the way.
The Wolfpack were the last unranked team to beat Clemson, just shy of five years ago but couldn’t quite get the job done at the end. While everybody thought the Tigers had turned the page after beating Louisville and Clemson the past two weeks, it appears last year’s ACC champion still has a few things to correct heading into their showdown with Florida State next Saturday.
A win is a win however and the late heroics kept Swinney and the team’s College Football Playoff hopes alive for seven more days.