CLEMSON - The Tigers improve to 2-1 on the season after beating N.C. State Saturday afternoon.
Tigers Put Away Pack, 27-9
But soon after that, the Clemson coach got what he expected from his fifth-year senior quarterback: a touchdown pass.
Harper responded to Nate Irving's 33-yard interception return for a touchdown, buy guiding the Tigers on a 9-play, 76-yard drive, which he capped with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Ford. Clemson never lost the lead again as Harper finished the day 20-of-28 for 262 yards and two scores, while the Tigers got an important 27-9 victory to open ACC play in Death Valley.
"He is a fifth-year senior and you would hope that he would do that, but you never know," Bowden said. "I don't think he has ever started a game like that so I was real pleased with his performance."
Like their quarterback, the rest of the Tigers also fought through adversity.
The offensive line, which appeared shaky at times Saturday in running the football, especially with freshmen Landon Walker (right tackle), David Smith (left guard) and Mason Cloy (right guard) starting up front, came through in the fourth quarter by opening up running lanes for running back C.J. Spiller in an eight minute and seven second drive to seal the win.
Wide receiver Jacoby Ford, who fans have waited on patiently to burst onto the scene, caught six passes for 106 yards, while rushing for another 48 more. And then there was the defense, which had been lit up for more than 400 yards of offense in each of the first two games, held N.C. State out of the end zone and to just 288 total yards.
"We came out there and we moved the ball and the defense did a good job," said Harper, who also had a nice 28-yard touchdown pass to Spiller in the second quarter.
"It got us started in the right direction and it is something positive for us moving forward."
Things did not look so positive for Clemson (2-1, 1-0 ACC) when the Wolfpack moved the football twice inside the Tigers 10 in the third quarter. Trailing just 17-6 at the time, N.C. State had two excellent chances to gain control of the game. But both times the defense rose the occasion, stopping the Wolfpack on third down to force Josh Czajkowski field goal attempts.
Czajkowski missed the first field goal attempt and later connected on a 22-yard kick to make the score 17-9 with 1:01 to play in the third. N.C. State running back Andre Brown did most of that damage – rushing for 64 yards and catching a team-high four passes for 51 yards.
"We were never worried," Clemson defensive back Chris Chancellor said. "But it was frustrating. They kept doing that zone play and were averaging at least five or six yards a play. We were frustrated about that, but Coach Vic (Koenning) is a great coach and we knew he would pull it together."
The Tigers finally pulled it together when Crezdon Butler intercepted a Russell Wilson pass at the Clemson four with 9:28 to play in the game. At the time, Clemson was ahead by only 11 points, 20-9, after a Mark Buchholz 31-yard field goal with 13:21 to go.
After the Butler interception, Clemson went on a drive of all drives, with a 13-play, 96-yard march, which Spiller capped with a 12-yard run off the left side.
In all, the drive ate up 8:07 off the clock, and left the Wolfpack with 81 seconds left.
"We made a statement with that drive," right guard Mason Cloy said, one of the three freshmen up front. "We dominated and took the game over. It's a big confidence builder for us."
And for their head coach.
"That's what good teams should be able to do," Bowden said. "I thought C.J. ran with an attitude and obviously the line did a pretty good job. That's something you eventually need to do in order to be a really good team."
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