Jakobi Meyers

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.

Florida State looked sluggish and sloppy in first half vs. N.C. State, as expected

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Florida State, as many probably expected, looked like a team that has not played a game in three weeks after one half of play in Tallahassee against N.C. State. The visiting Wolfpack took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and hold a 17-7 advantage on the Seminoles at halftime in Doak Campbell Stadium.

Ryan Finley completed a 71-yard touchdown to Jakobi Meyers, who performed some acrobatics across the goal line (which was flagged, although the score counted) for the 17-7 lead in the second quarter.

Florida State seemed to get in sync in the second quarter. After two series on the field resulting in a pair of three-and-outs and a total of one yard of offense, Blackman and the Noles put their first drive together to the tune of 12 plays and 75 yards. Blackman capped the drive with a pass to Auden Tate from the four-yard line, but it was this key 3rd and 8 play that suggested Blackman had gotten comfortable for the first time in the game. A dropback pass to Tate went for 24 yards, and the placement of the pass could not have been much better.

That momentum did not seem to last too long, however. Florida State fumbled the ball away in crazy fashion on their next offensive series and later missed a field goal from the NC State 13-yard line. Blackman had a nice spin move to get away from a tackler, but he lost control of the football toward the end of his run, leading to a massive shift in momentum in bizarre fashion.

The play was reviewed to determine if Blackman’s knee had hit the ground prior to the fumble. After the review, the call on the field was upheld, and N.C. state recovered the ball at their two-yard line.

N.C. State’s first two offensive possessions were good for a combined 22 plays and over 120 yards and 10 points.

South Carolina uses goal-line stand to survive NC State

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South Carolina returned a kickoff for a touchdown and turned two fumbles into touchdowns and still needed a deflection inside its own end zone to survive NC State, holding on for a 35-28 win in Charlotte.

Deebo Samuel started the year for the Gamecocks as well as he possibly could, taking the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. The game turned into a shootout for there.

NC State answered Samuel’s touchdown with a 14-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 6-yard Ryan Finley scoring run. South Carolina answered that answer when Jake Bentley found Rico Dowdle for a 34-yard score at the 3:53 mark of the first quarter.

And NC State again responded, this time on a 2-yard Nyheim Hines run to close the first quarter in a 14-14 tie.

South Carolina’s Chris Lammons forced a fumble by NC State receiver Stephon Lewis inside NC State territory, and South Carolina capitalized on a 6-yard toss from Bentley to Samuel at the 10:02 mark of the second quarter.

NC State tied the game again with its third lengthy drive of the half — 79 yards in 10 plays — closing on a 4-yard strike from Finely to Jakobi Meyers.

South Carolina opened the second half with two straight scores. The first came on a 39-yard strike from Bentley (17-of-29 for 215 yards and three touchdowns with one interception)

to Samuel on the ‘Cocks opening touch of the second half, and the third came two plays after another Wolfpack fumble inside its own territory; Dowdle staked South Carolina to a 35-21 lead on a 7-yard dash at the 9:08 mark of the third quarter.

That would be the last output from South Carolina’s offense, while its defense had to survive an onslaught of plays from NC State. The Wolfpack ran 99 plays, 64 of them passes from Finley.

A 4th-and-goal completion from Finely to Jaylen Samuels (15 catches for 85 yards) pulled NC State within seven at the 12:21 mark of the fourth quarter, but the pair could not hook up again after NC State moved to a 1st-and-goal from the South Carolina 8-yard line with 24 seconds remaining. Finley (45-of-64 for 415 yards for two touchdowns with no interceptions) fired three incomplete passes surrounded by one sack, allowing South Carolina to escape with the win.

The victory pushed South Carolina to 1-0 for the 17th time in 18 tries since the turn of the century and 3-0 in Charlotte openers. The Gamecocks also beat East Carolina at Bank of America Stadium to open the 2011 season and toppled North Carolina to begin the ’15 campaign. NC State (0-1) fell to 26-28-4 against South Carolina all-time and 0-3 since the turn of the century.

NC State and South Carolina tied at the half in Charlotte

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Deebo Samuel took the opening kickoff 97 yards for a South Carolina touchdown while NC State closed the half with a score of its own, and the Gamecocks and Wolfpack are knotted at 21-21 at the break in Charlotte.

Neither team stopped the other to open the game. NC State answered Samuel’s touchdown with a 14-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 6-yard Ryan Finley scoring run. South Carolina answered that answer when Jake Bentley found Rico Dowdle for a 34-yard score at the 3:53 mark of the first quarter.

And NC State again responded, this time on a 2-yard Nyheim Hines run to close the first quarter in a 14-14 tie.

South Carolina’s Chris Lammons forced a fumble by NC State receiver Stephon Lewis inside NC State territory, and South Carolina capitalized on a 6-yard toss from Bentley to Samuel at the 10:02 mark of the second quarter.

NC State tied the game again with its third lengthy drive of the half — 79 yards in 10 plays — closing on a 4-yard strike from Finely to Jakobi Meyers. Finley has hit 27-of-34 throws for 296 yards and a touchdown (with another on the ground), while NC State has managed 47 yards on 15 rushes.

Bentley has completed 11-of-17 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns while also leading the ‘Cocks on the ground with 12 yards on three carries. South Carolina managed only 28 yards on 10 carries in the first half.

NC State will receive to start the second half.