NC State Wolfpack: Clemson Tigers Too Much To Handle

RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 04: K'Von Wallace
RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 04: K'Von Wallace /

Marred with penalty trouble and costly turnovers, the Wolfpack stumble at home against Clemson, costing the team leverage in conference championship hopes.

No. 20 NC State (6-3, 4-1 ACC) entered this weekend with a spotless conference record and a shot to solidify its spot in the ACC Championship. No. 6 Clemson (8-1, 6-1 ACC) flexed its muscles and shot down the Wolfpack’s chances with the win at Carter-Finley Stadium Saturday, 38-31.

The Tigers laughed in the face of State’s highly-touted rush defense with 224 yards on the ground. Clemson running back Tavien Feaster led the way with 105 yards on seven carries including an 89-yard score in the third quarter. However, the State offense pounded out 491 yards of total offense against Clemson’s 415. Unfortunately, the Wolfpack were penalized six times for a total of 69 yards. The Tigers, conversely, only had three for 23 yards.

RALEIGH, NC – NOVEMBER 04: Ryan Finley
RALEIGH, NC – NOVEMBER 04: Ryan Finley /

Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley threw for 338 yards on 31-of 50 passing with three touchdowns. However, Finley also threw two interceptions, one of which coming on State’s final play of the game. H-Back Jaylen Samuels scored two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving, to move into second in school history for career scores (43).

State came storming out of the gate with an interception by Tim Kidd-Glass on Clemson’s opening drive. Three plays later, Finley hit Kelvin Harmon for a 40-yard touchdown to take an early lead. After Clemson’s next drive resulted in a punt, State’s drive also stalled with a three-and-out. However, Tigers’ wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud took A.J. Cole III’s punt 61 yards into the end zone, tying the game.

It didn’t take long for the Wolfpack to reclaim the lead. Finley drove the team 65 yards down the field on 13 plays. Samuels, who also moved the chains on a fourth down, capped off the drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown. Bryant and the Tigers responded with a touchdown on the next Clemson possession.

RALEIGH, NC – NOVEMBER 04: Deon Cain /

Samuels continued to pull the Pack ahead on the next drive. After 10 plays to move State down the field, Finley connected with Samuels for a seven-yard touchdown reception. Clemson’s Alex Spence drilled a 26-yard field goal to cut the deficit. After NC State’s Carson Wise missed a 34-yarder, Spence got the call again at the end of the half. However, the Pack iced the kicker twice, resulting in Spence missing the 39-yard attempt.

The Wolfpack left the half ahead by four, but the Tigers were primed to change that. After the teams traded punts five drives in a row, Bryant hit Deon Cain for a 12-yard score to put Clemson ahead by three. Another three-and-out by the Pack gave the Tigers the ball back. Feaster took off running on the very next play, scoring on the 89-yard rush to end the third quarter.

Down by 10, State responded quickly with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Finley to Jakobi Meyers. The Wolfpack defense forced a Clemson three-and-out, but Finley threw an interception two plays into the next drive. The Tigers pounced on the opportunity and scored on a Bryant one-yard rush.

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State attempted to revive its chances on the next possession. Finley drove the Wolfpack down the field 81 yards to set up Kyle Bambard for a 22-yard field goal to cut Clemson’s lead back to seven. The Pack’s defense shut the Tigers out on the next drive, forcing a three-and-out while burning all three of its timeouts.

NC State’s final drive started from its own 20. Finley moved the chains on fourth down with a five-yard rush. After that, he connected with Harmon on 17- and 22-yard strikes to put the Wolfpack inside the Clemson 30. However, the team’s luck ran out as Finley missed Samuels on first down, Samuels got nailed attempting a catch on the goal line on second down, and an illegal shift negated a fourth-down conversion. The final nail in the coffin came when Finley’s last pass was picked off by K’Von Wallace.

Next: North Carolina Tar Heels: At Least It's Basketball Season?

The Wolfpack will need to pick up the pieces from this loss and move forward. NC State will next face Boston College next Saturday in Chestnut Hill, Mass. Kickoff is set for noon.