RALEIGH, N.C. – This is what the 15th-ranked team in the country is supposed to look like. In fact, this is what a top 10 team looks like and unfortunately for N.C. State, it got to witness it firsthand.
From start to finish, the No. 15 Clemson football team whipped, embarrassed and waxed lowly N.C. State and by the time it was all over, the Tigers claimed a 42-20 victory Saturday afternoon at Carter-Finley Stadium.
To use that hold cliché, the game wasn’t as close as the score indicated. The game never once felt in doubt.
Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC) amassed a season-high 608 yards of total offense, while at the same time yielding just 202.
To put things in perspective, that’s the highest yardage amount ever for the Tigers in an ACC road game. It’s also the most yardage gained on the road overall since 1903.
“We got overwhelmed,” Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien said. “We needed to control the line of scrimmage and we couldn’t. We couldn’t get first downs or third-down conversions. We couldn’t stop them on their third downs. When you get beat, you get beat, and we got beat solidly.”
Not once did the Wolfpack (1-3, 0-2 ACC) have an answer defensively for Clemson.
When the Tigers decided they wanted to run, they did so with ease as evident by the 222 yards rushing on just 20 carries in the first half. They finished with 340 yards rushing on 50 attempts, which equates to 6.8 yards per carry.
Even when it was just trying to run out the clock in the fourth quarter and all 25 people left in the stands new Clemson was going to hand it off, the Wolfpack couldn’t stop it.
Junior tailback James Davis, who finished with 24 carries for 166 yards and a touchdown, said the game plan for the Tigers was to rush right at N.C. State’s weakness.
“We knew they were kind of thin at defensive tackle,” said Davis, who also had his first-career touchdown reception. “That’s why we stayed with the running game. We knew we’d get those guys tired.”
C.J. Spiller, who has struggled some this season with his rushing, had a big game, too. He finally got the big run he’s been looking for as he scored on a 44-yard touchdown run in which he had five cutbacks.
He finished with 21 carries for 114 yards and a rushing touchdown. He also had a receiving touchdown.
“It was a whole lot better out there today,” Spiller said. “They did exactly what they showed on film with the linebackers overflowing. But we’ve still got a long way to go with our running game.”
Spiller, who was under the weather with a cold, said getting a long touchdown run and breaking the 100-yard mark was a huge weight off his shoulders.
“I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to do too much dancing,” he said. “I was criticized for it, so I just made up my mind that when I saw a hole I was going to go for it.”
But running the ball wasn’t the only area of dominance for the offense. Once again, quarterback Cullen Harper had a very solid performance and showed why he’s the one to lead the Tigers.
When Clemson wanted to pass, Harper calmly picked apart the defense by throwing to a wide variety of receivers. All told, seven different receivers had receptions as he completed 25-of-39 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions.
And while Tigers head coach Tommy Bowden was happy with the win, he was very subdued with the performance of his quarterback, being careful not to yield too much praise.
“The competition is only going to get stiffer,” he said. “It was stiffer today than it was the last two weeks and it’s going to get stiffer next week. But so far, he’s answered every challenge.”
The only thing that didn’t go well offensively for Clemson was the touchdown ratio when inside the red zone.
The Tigers entered the day having scored seven touchdowns in nine red zone trips. However, against the Wolfpack Clemson got inside their 20-yard line seven times and managed only three touchdowns.
But everything else was nearly as good as a team could do offensively.
“It’s good to get a 300-yard game (rushing),” Bowden said. “We had a bunch last year. Hopefully that will open up some more things later on.”