What happened and what mattered in the Clemson 41-7 win over NC State?
Clemson 41, NC State 7
And there’s Trevor Lawrence doing what Trevor Lawrence needed to do. NC State didn’t do a whole lot of things right, but it loaded up on the Clemson running game and made the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft win the game – and he did. Lawrence came up with a cool, calm, no-drama 26-of-39 day for 308 yards and a score, and he even ran for 12 yards. It helped that his defense showed up, too.
This was the Clemson defense kicking it all in at the right time. The destruction of Wake Forest the game before was nice, but this was something at another level. The front lived behind the line, the secondary didn’t give Ryan Finley anywhere to work, and there weren’t any points allowed until the game was over in the fourth quarter.
NC State came into the game without enough of a running game, and this wasn’t the defensive front to get healthy against. Reggie Gallaspy ran for 59 yards and a score – he ran well, but it wasn’t nearly enough with the the Wolfpack put in bad third down situation after bad third down situation. Finley had to be amazing to make this a game, but Clemson looked every bit the part of a College Football Playoff contender, except for …
It would be nice if the Clemson running game was stronger. Travis Etienne ran for three short scores, but he was bottled up, Again, NC State made a point of slowing down the ground attack. Everyone tries to do that, but the Pack actually did it. Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, and in the ACC Championship, Miami, Virginia Tech or Virginia can do that, too.
And now the ACC Atlantic is effectively over. Clemson was always going to have it, but this was the game and the performance to end it … maybe. There’s still that question of getting by Boston College on the road, going to Florida State won’t be a total layup, and Duke is hardly a breeze, but this was the toughest team left on the ACC schedule.
Clemson can still afford a loss and get to the CFP, but at exactly the right time, the Tigers are playing like one of those Four Best Teams the committee loves so much.
NC State, don’t let Clemson beat you twice. There’s still the dream of Clemson gacking away two of those not-so-easy ACC games left. If the Pack can beat Syracuse on the road next week, they get FSU and Wake Forest at home before closing out at Louisville and North Carolina. Win in the Carrier Dome, and they have to hope to win out. Do that, and hope all the breaks kick in.