The last two Clemson and N.C. State matchups were filled with fourth-quarter drama in down-to-the-wire games. The only fourth-quarter drama on Saturday centered around how many walk-ons Clemson would play.
After the Tigers escaped with a pair of close wins against N.C. State each of the past two years, Clemson dominated from start to finish on Saturday, earning a 41-7 victory in a battle between the only two undefeated teams remaining in the ACC.
“Our guys were locked in and committed to preparation all week long. That was a dominant performance today,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “N.C. State’s a good football team. We complemented each other in all phases of the game and put together a total team effort ... We had great energy from start to finish.”
Clemson freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence outshined Wolfpack senior Ryan Finley, and the Clemson secondary looked nothing like the one that was torched by Texas A&M in Week 2, as No. 3 Clemson (7-0, 4-0) easily passed perhaps its biggest test until the College Football Playoff.
The Tigers scored a touchdown on their first drive for the first time this season when Travis Etienne finished off a nine-play, 57-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run, and Clemson was off to the races.
Trevor Lawrence passed for 244 yards in the first half, including a 46-yard touchdown strike to Tee Higgins, Etienne added a 2-yard touchdown run and Greg Huegel connected on a 28-yard field goal as Clemson led 24-0 at halftime.
Clemson finished the game with 380 passing yards, 308 of which were from Lawrence. N.C. State loaded the box almost begging the Tigers to throw, and Clemson had no problem doing so.
“We knew going into the game that’s what they do defensively. We knew that we were going to get challenged,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “We also had a lot of confidence going into the game that our quarterback and receivers were going to make those plays.”
Etienne finished with three rushing touchdowns, while Lyn-J Dixon also ran for a score late. Etienne is the first Clemson player in school history to record three touchdowns in three consecutive games.
The Tigers finished with only 91 rushing yards, but it didn’t matter in the lopsided victory.
“We feel confident. We can run the ball when we need to and we can pass the ball when we need to,” Etienne said. “It is going to help us further along in the season. If you take away one of them, we still have a pretty solid offense.”
No. 16 N.C. State (5-1, 2-1) failed to score on its first nine possessions and Clemson emptied the bench in the impressive win, playing 85 players.
Star of the game: N.C. State loaded the box and dared Trevor Lawrence to beat them through the air. Lawrence obliged, passing for 308 yards and a touchdown.
Play of the game: Clemson led 14-0 late in the first half but N.C. State was driving in Clemson territory when the snap came before Ryan Finley was ready and landed on the ground. Dexter Lawrence recovered, leading to a Clemson touchdown. The Tigers scored 10 points in the final two minutes of the first half to grab control.
Stat of the game: 2-12: N.C. State led the nation in third-down conversions entering Saturday’s game but finished 2-for-12 against the Tigers.
Trevor Lawrence was ready for the moment: The freshman shined in the top 20 showdown while starting in the biggest game of his young career.
K’Von Wallace loves playing N.C. State: The Clemson safety intercepted a pass for the third consecutive year against the Wolfpack.
The secondary has improved: Clemson held the ACC’s leading passer to 156 yards and no touchdowns while picking him off twice.
Who: Clemson at Florida State
When: Saturday, Oct. 27
Where: Tallahassee, Fla.