Clemson coach Dabo Swinney insisted leading up to this week’s game at N.C. State that he didn’t care about Clemson’s No. 5 spot in the initial College Football Playoff rankings and added the Tigers would not worry about style points moving forward.
But from the opening snap until the final whistle his Clemson team appeared on a mission Saturday night.
The Tigers jumped out to a 42-0 halftime lead and didn’t stop scoring until Michel Dukes ran for a touchdown from a yard out with 11 seconds remaining in the game as The Tigers (10-0, 7-0 ACC) blasted N.C. State (4-5, 1-4) 55-10 Saturday night at Carter-Finley Stadium.
With the win and Wake Forest’s loss to Virginia Tech earlier in the day, Clemson clinched the ACC Atlantic Division title for the fifth consecutive year. The Tigers will become the first ACC team to represent a division in five consecutive ACC title games.
“I’m super proud of our guys. It was a tremendous performance. We were ready,” Swinney said. “It’s hard to make history. It’s hard to do things that haven’t ever been done, especially with some of these teams that we’ve had over the past few years. This team just continues to separate itself and kind of live its own legacy.”
Clemson scored touchdowns on its first four drives and six of its seven in the first half. The Tigers had 403 total yards at halftime to N.C. State’s 83.
In total, Clemson scored touchdowns on seven of the eight drives starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence was in for before he exited the game midway through the third quarter with the Tigers leading 49-7.
Lawrence completed 20 of 27 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 59 yards and a score. Lawrence has now passed for three touchdowns in five consecutive games, which is a Clemson record.
“Our execution was tremendous that first half,” Swinney said. “We really played about as clean as you can play… We really played a very, very clean game. Trevor was tremendous.”
Tigers running back Travis Etienne also had a record-breaking night with 14 carries for 112 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Etienne caught three passes for 31 yards and a score and broke C.J. Spiller’s record for most career touchdowns in Clemson history. He entered the game tied with Spiller at 51 before scoring three times to reach 54.
Defensively Clemson held N.C. State to 290 total yards. The Tigers have still not allowed an opponent to reach 300 yards of offense this season. Clemson and the 2011 Alabama defense are the only defenses since 2000 to hold 10 consecutive opponents to under 300 yards of offense to open a season.
The Tigers’ latest dominant performance came after Clemson debuted at No. 5 in the CFP rankings, despite being the defending national champs and on a 24-game winning streak. Clemson won its 25th consecutive game Saturday night.
“Of course it’s going to motivate us. It’s disrespectful to us,” Tigers defensive end Xavier Thomas said. “We just try to come in and do what we can and win games.”
Star of the game: Trevor Lawrence continued his stretch of unbelievable play, connecting on 74 percent of his passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns. Lawrence also rushed for a score and did his damage in 2.5 quarters before heading to the sideline.
Play of the game: Clemson faced a third-and-14 at the N.C. State 33 midway through the first quarter when Lawrence found Higgins streaking down the left sideline and hit his 6-foot-4 receiver in stride for an easy touchdown.
Stat of the game: 21-4: Clemson had 21 first downs at halftime, while N.C. State had only four.
Orange britches: The Tigers found out they would be playing for the ACC Atlantic title during warmups after Wake Forest lost to Virginia Tech and changed into orange pants before kickoff. Clemson wears orange pants every time a championship is on the line.
Punch it in: Dabo Swinney insisted after the game that he has a great relationship with Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren, but with a 39-point lead and an opportunity to take a knee in the final seconds, Clemson punched in one final touchdown with 11 seconds remaining.
Tigers clicking on all cylinders: Clemson has now scored at least 55 points in three consecutive games for the first time in school history. The Tigers have also scored at least 45 points in five consecutive games for the first time ever.
Who: Wake Forest at Clemson
When: 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16
Where: Memorial Stadium