N.C. State has played Clemson close the past few years in the Textile Bowl but will need to step things up quite a bit in the second half if they want to hang with the No. 3 team in the country down the stretch in the pair’s ACC showdown on Saturday afternoon.
Playing in front of a fired up crowd in Death Valley, the Tigers jumped out to a 24-0 lead at halftime in a score line that didn’t even indicate the home team’s dominance over the No. 16 Wolfpack early on.
Leading the way for Clemson was young quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who remarkably was up to 28 attempts in the game already and wound up throwing for 244 yards and a touchdown in his biggest test to date. Favorite target Tee Higgins was naturally involved quite a bit on offense with seven catches and 111 yards plus a trip to the end zone. Tailback Travis Etienne was relatively quiet on the ground with only 27 yards (two TD’s though) but figures to get plenty of work after emerging from the locker room.
The Tigers defense also played a big role in the halftime lead, holding NCSU to just 1-of-6 on third down as the decorated front four applied continuous pressure and already had two sacks. Perhaps the only thing that truly went awry through two quarters was when Dabo Swinney called for a fake field goal with his son Will as holder — but the younger Swinney fumbled the initial snap and, after picking the ball up off the turf, wound up fumbling again after being hit at the line of scrimmage.
Wolfpack QB Ryan Finley dealt with a ton of pressure on just about every dropback as he completed just seven passes for 58 yards and an interception. If there was a bit of a bright spot for the team, they did manage to run the ball better than they have this season with 43 yards on the ground but there’s not a whole lot else to write home about for a team that was untested but 5-0 coming into the game.
There have been some dramatic second half performances in this series over the years but from the looks of this one so far, that does not appear to be in the cards this time around. Perhaps NCSU can dial things up after regrouping at the break but the Tigers are really starting to live up to that ranking beside their name in the polls.