Matt Connolly

Clemson report card: Up-and-down showing for Tigers at NC State

Clemson linebacker Dorian O’Daniel had 11 tackles against N.C. State.
Clemson linebacker Dorian O’Daniel had 11 tackles against N.C. State. Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time to grade how the Clemson Tigers performed in their 38-31 win against the N.C. State Wolfpack on Saturday.


Kelly Bryant made plays when he needed to in the second half to bring Clemson back from a halftime deficit, but he also missed several easy throws and allowed the Wolfpack to hang around. His interception on the first series of the game proved costly as N.C. State immediately turned it into points to take a 7-0 lead.

Grade: B-

Running back

Tavien Feaster had an 89-yard touchdown run, but for the most part, Clemson’s backs had a hard time finding running room. Still, Feaster and Travis Etienne ran hard and helped keep Bryant from being sacked.

Grade: B+

Wide receiver

Clemson’s receivers did a nice job of getting open, although Bryant wasn’t always able to find them. Deon Cain had a career-high nine catches, while Hunter Renfrow made a critical grab on fourth down in the fourth quarter. Trevion Thompson, Amari Rodgers and T.J. Chase also contributed in the passing game.

Grade: A-

Tight end

Milan Richard had another big grab this week, catching one pass for 29 yards, and did a nice job blocking.

Grade: B

Offensive line

Bryant took several hits, but Clemson’s offensive line did not allow him to be sacked. The Tigers totaled 415 yards of offense, including 224 rushing yards.

Grade: B

Defensive line

The Tigers did not get much pressure on Ryan Finley and allowed N.C. State to rush for 153 yards on 34 carries. Clelin Ferrell had an exceptional game, leading Clemson with 12 tackles and five tackles for loss while recording the only sack for the Tigers. But the unit did not do much stat-wise outside of that.

Grade: C


Starting linebackers Dorian O’Daniel, Kendall Joseph and Tre Lamar were solid. O’Daniel recorded 11 tackles and broke up a pass, Joseph had eight tackles and Lamar added five tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup. Still, Clemson allowed 491 total yards and 31 points with some of the blame falling on the linebackers.

Grade: B-

Defensive backs

Clemson surrendered 338 passing yards as Finley had his way for much of the day against the Tigers’ secondary. With that said, defensive backs Ryan Carter and K’Von Wallace had interceptions in the fourth quarter to help seal the win.

Grade: C-

Special Teams

Ray-Ray McCloud returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown, but the Tigers also had two kickoffs go out of bounds, and Alex Spence was 1-for-2 on field-goal attempts.

Grade: C+


Clemson was far from perfect but did enough to earn a crucial road victory as it looks to capture a third consecutive ACC title and College Football Playoff berth.

Grade: B-