RALEIGH - Kyle Parker was stunned - not because he had not seen receiver Xavier Dye, but that Dye had managed to corral Parker's laser from short range.
On a pass intended for receiver Jacoby Ford some 10 yards further downfield, Dye made a nifty grab and converted a third-and 5 with a 17-yard gain.
Clemson completed a season-high 60 percent of its third downs in Saturday's 43-23 victory at N.C. State, but the way the Tigers did it was just as impressive.
Four of the conversions came on completions of 16 yards or longer, demonstrating a downfield passing attack that has augmented the Tigers' newfound offense.
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After Dye's 17-yarder, Parker threw over a dropping linebacker to connect with tight end Michael Palmer for 22 yards on third-and-7. Ford's 47-yard deep ball down the middle was on third-and-11, and with the Tigers in danger of giving N.C. State the ball back while holding a 30-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, Parker escaped pressure in the pocket and hit Palmer for 16 yards on third-and-3.
"Plays like that weigh on the defense," Parker said.
Kicked to the curb
Redshirt freshman Spencer Benton might not have the starting place-kicker job for long.
With struggling incumbent Richard Jackson benched for an academic violation, Benton missed the final two of his five extra points but hit a sidewinding 28-yard field goal.
Coach Dabo Swinney blamed a bad snap for Benton's first miss. Jackson was inserted for Clemson's final extra point, which Jackson made. Benton did register a pair of touchbacks on kickoffs.
"It's mental," Swinney said. "If we would have quit the game at halftime, he would have gotten MVP."
Weekly Spiller honor roll
Among this week's achievements for star running back C.J. Spiller:
- He now has accounted for a touchdown five different ways this season (run, pass, catch, kickoff return, punt return), the first Clemson player to do so.
- He notched 158 all-purpose yards to set the program's single-season record, eclipsing Derrick Hamilton (1,883 in 2002).
- Three touchdowns moved him into a tie for seventh on the Tigers' single-season list, and he needs four to tie Travis Zachery's record, set in 2000. Spiller has recorded a touchdown in all 10 games.
"They talked him up a lot - I thought maybe too much - coming into the game, but he proved it," N.C. State defensive end Audi Augustin said.
"I don't like to talk people up because it's not the same until you see it for yourself. He's definitely a good player. I can't hate on a good player. He was good."
Until last week, Clemson was one of the least penalized teams in the country.
But after netting seven flags against FSU, they followed with seven for 79 yards against the Wolfpack - six of which gave first downs to N.C. State.
"They didn't do a whole lot in the scope of things," defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said.
"But there were penalties where we created the situation we couldn't get off the field. We have to get that cleaned up. That's not been our M.O."
Senior left guard Thomas Austin suffered a sprained foot late in the third quarter and did not return. X-rays showed no breaks in Austin's foot, and he should be available against Virginia, Swinney said. Sophomore Mason Cloy filled in well for Austin. ... N.C. State's decision to kick away from Spiller went awry when it had a 6-yard punt to its 17, setting up Spiller's touchdown pass. "For a team like us to beat a team like that, we had to be perfect," coach Tom O'Brien said. "We were certainly far from that." ... Second-string left tackle Cory Lambert and special teams player Spencer Adams did not dress out because of the flu.