Deon Cain

Associated Press

No. 4 Clemson survives road scare at No. 20 NC State

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No. 4 Clemson was forced to defend its ACC and national championships from practically the first play of its visit to Raleigh until literally the last. But defend it they did, as the Tigers survived a visit to No. 20 NC State with a 38-31 win.

NC State opened the game on fire, intercepting Kelly Bryant (191 passing yards, 88 rushing yards, three total touchdowns) inside Clemson territory, which Ryan Finley turned into a 40-yard scoring connection to Kelvin Harmon. After the Tigers pulled even on a 77-yard punt return score by Ray Ray McCloud, NC State again claimed a touchdown lead on a 12-play, 65-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard Jaylen Samuels run.

Clemson again pulled even with a long drive of its own as Bryant punctuated a 12-play, 71-yard march with a 10-yard keeper. Again, though, NC State responded, this time with a 75-yard march that ended on a 7-yard strike from Finley to Samuels with 9:29 left before halftime.

The Tigers could not hold serve on their next possession, instead ending a 68-yard drive with a 26-yard Alex Spence field goal. NC State blew a chance to take a touchdown lead before the break when Carson Wise missed 34-yard field goal. Clemson moved in position to take a halftime lead, moving to the NC State 22-yard line with under 10 seconds to go, but Bryant’s final two passes fell incomplete and NC State head coach Dave Doeren successfully froze Spence into missing a 39-yard field goal as time expired at the half.

That miss sent Clemson into a halftime in which it trailed 21-17 at halftime on the road against a ranked conference opponent, and that opponent would get the ball to open the second half.

Simply put, it was gut check time for Clemson’s ACC and national championship hopes, and Clemson responded with a check right into NC State’s gut.

The Tigers took the lead on a 12-yard strike from Bryant to Deon Cain, then closed the quarter (literally) on an 89-yard burst from Tavien Feaster, the club’s longest play from scrimmage to date this season. 

Any control Clemson had over the game evaporated on NC State’s next possession, as the Wolfpack sliced down the field with a 6-play, 65-yard drive. Finley fired his third touchdown pass of the day, a 15-yarder to Jakobi Meyers, to pull NC State within 31-28 with 12:23 to play. The Wolfpack had a chance to force a turnover on downs and get the ball back with the chance to take the lead on a touchdown in forcing a 4th-and-5 at the NC State 22 with 8:16 to play, but Bryant found CFP Championship hero Hunter Renfrow for a 16-yard connection. Bryant danced in from one yard out three plays later, handing Clemson a 38-28 advantage with 6:31 to play.

However, NC State once again answered with a gut check of its own. The Pack moved 81 yards to set up a 22-yard Kyle Bambard field goal with 1:51 to play, then used its three timeouts to force an immediate Clemson punt, handing NC State the ball at its own 20 with 80 seconds to force overtime.

Finley (31-of-50 for 338 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, eight caries for 35 yards) moved NC State to the Clemson 28 and momentarily put the ball inside the Clemson 5-yard line, but an illegal shift penalty negated a long completion, and his final pass was intercepted.

The win all but clinches a third straight ACC Atlantic championship for Clemson (8-1, 6-1 ACC), needing only to beat Florida State to clinch the division. Should the Tigers lose, NC State (6-3, 4-1 ACC) still find itself in prime position to steal the division title.

Clemson handling Lamar Jackson and Louisville through one half

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One of the few questions about Clemson entering tonight was Kelly Bryant‘s ability to handle his first road start, and specifically his first road start on the stage of a nationally televised primetime audience. He answered that question as early as possible.

After Clemson forced a three-and-out to open the game, Bryant moved the Tigers 79 yards in 10 plays, taking care of the last eight himself to stake Clemson to a 7-0 lead.

A pair of punts pinned Louisville’s third possession at its own 5-yard line, and Lamar Jackson handled all 95 available yards, rushing for 55 — with 15 given by a late hit — and throwing for the final 11, a strike to Charles Standberry to knot the game at 7-7 with 4:22 remaining in the first quarter.

The Tigers moved the ball on their next three possessions — a 36-yard march that ended in a missed Greg Huegel field goal, a 41-yarder that led to a made field goal, and then a 90-yard touchdown drive punctuated by a 79-yard dagger from Bryant to Ray Ray McCloud, handing Clemson a 16-7 lead with 4:06 to play in the half.

Bryant hit Deon Cain for another touchdown on Clemson’s final drive before the half, but the play was called back due to offsetting penalties. The drive ended in a career-long 49-yard Huegel field goal, providing the halftime score of 19-7. Bryant closed the half hitting 17-of-27 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown with 12 carries for 35 yards and another score.

Clemson’s defense, meanwhile, has been as good as advertised. None of Louisville’s four possessions after the touchdown lasted longer than five plays, and Jackson was limited to 7-of-19 passing for 72 yards and a score with six carries for 55 yards.

Louisville will receive to open the second half.

Kelly Bryant has settled in as Clemson’s new QB

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Overreactions to one half of football in the first half of the season opener are often times misguided, but it was hard not to like what Clemson fans witnessed from their new starting quarterback, Kelly Bryant. But after a fast start in the first quarter with 21 points scored by the defending national champions, Clemson is holding a lead of just 28-3 at the half against Kent State.

Bryant ended the first half having completed 14 of 20 passes for 178 yards, with 61 of them coming on this deep pass to Deon Cain for a touchdown.

And yes, he is even quite cordial to the referees, as evidenced by this moment at the end of a play.

Bryant has also impressed with his running abilities as well, as he currently leads all players with 77 rushing yards and a touchdown. All things considered, this has been a fine start to the season for the Tigers after just one half of play. While a handful of top 10 teams had questionable first halves in their openers, Clemson has been just dandy.

Alabama leads Clemson with just one quarter left in the national title game

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All good things must come to an end and there is just one more quarter of college football left this season. Judging by the way the College Football Playoff National Championship Game has gone for three quarters, the end of this season is looking like it will be wrapping up the same way the last did too.

Alabama continued to control the game on both sides of the ball, grinding their way to a 24-14 lead entering the fourth quarter after a few big plays for both teams highlighted the effort coming out of halftime.

The Tide could have had a more comfortable margin had they capitalized on yet another costly Clemson turnover after tailback Wayne Gallman fumbled on the Tigers’ opening drive of the second half, which setup Alabama in red zone. The offense stagnated however, and was held to a field goal to extend their lead to double digits.

After exchanging punts later in the quarter, Clemson finally showed some life for the first time in the second half on one of the rare times they began with good field position. Following a clutch play from Watson and Deon Cain to move the offense down the field, the quarterback found reliable receiver Hunter Renfrow across the middle for a 24 yard touchdown that narrowed things on the scoreboard and seemed to ignite the Clemson faithful who made the trip down to Tampa.

Alabama never seemed to panic despite the momentum shifting a bit and tailback Bo Scarbrough (team-high 93 yards, two scores) limp off with a leg injury of unknown severity. That’s because quarterback Jalen Hurts finally was able to do something with his arm, launching a deep pass to a wide-open O.J. Howard for a 68 yard touchdown that evoked plenty of memories from last season’s game.

There’s still plenty of time for the Tigers to get back into this one with the offense in the red zone entering the fourth but, with just one quarter left in the national title game, the Crimson Tide dynasty is looking well on their way to picking up another ring for head coach Nick Saban.

VIDEO: Watch Clemson light offensive spark in three plays

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Down 14-0 in the second quarter and stuck starting an offensive series from their own 13-yard line, Clemson needed to make some big plays happen. They did just that. Three plays highlighted the much-needed seven-play drive that ended in the end zone with Deshaun Watson finding a path for a touchdown to cut into the Alabama lead in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

It began with a 44-yard catch-and-run  from Watson to Deon Cain

A few plays later, Watson connected over the middle of the field with Jordan Leggett for a 26-yard gain to move into the red zone for the first time in the game…

Watson would finish the drove off with an eight-yard touchdown run a couple of plays later…

Clemson really needed that score, and it helped to give the defense a little bit of a rest after having Bo Scarbrough break off a pair of long touchdown runs on them in the first half.