Clemson escapes NC State with 26-14 win

jgiglio@newsobserver.comSeptember 19, 2013 

  • Observations

    • Clemson made the most of two first-half timeouts, much to the chagrin of Wolfpack fans. The first wiped out a third-down stop by the Wolfpack’s defense. The second was even bigger, negating a sideline interception by Wolfpack cornerback Juston Burris that would have resulted in a touchdown.

    • N.C. State’s baseball team was honored during a second-quarter timeout for their appearance last season in the College World Series. Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren even jogged down to the north end zone to give baseball coach Elliott Avent a quick hug – a nice gesture and show of respect, one coach to another.

    • N.C. State had a slew of mindless penalties: a delay-of-game before a punt, personal foul on a punt return, illegal block, illegal substitution, false start. And that was in the first half.

    • A little hard to believe Clemson came into the game just 2-9 in Thursday night games on ESPN. A key factor: seven of those nine losses were to top 25 teams.

    Chip Alexander

— N.C. State had held Clemson in check for the better part of 40 minutes on Thursday night.

The sellout crowd at Carter-Finley Stadium could sense another big upset by the Wolfpack against a top 10 team. So could the N.C. State players.

“We were right there,” N.C. State quarterback Pete Thomas said. “We had them right where we wanted them.”

Then a controversial call in the third quarter, which cost N.C. State a potential touchdown, changed the game and Clemson’s star quarterback Tajh Boyd did the rest.

Boyd threw for three touchdowns to lead the No. 3 Tigers to a 26-14 win over N.C. State. It kept Clemson’s national title hopes alive and ended the Wolfpack’s three-game winning streak against top 10 teams, but it didn’t go off without a hitch.

With N.C. State (2-1, 0-1 ACC) trailing 13-7, receiver Bryan Underwood appeared to run for an 83-yard touchdown.

Underwood took a jet sweep around the right edge and got past the Clemson (3-0, 1-0) defense. As he sprinted down the N.C. State sideline, line judge Richard Misner ruled he stepped out of bounds at the Clemson 47-yard line with 7 minutes, 27 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

The play happened right in front of first-year Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren.

“He didn’t go out of bounds,” Doeren said. “Unfortunately, they blew it dead so they couldn’t review it.”

On the ESPN replay, it looked like Underwood stayed in bounds as he raced into the end zone and celebrated the apparent touchdown. Instead of a score, Underwood officially picked up 36 yards on the run.

Underwood, who had a similar 18-yard run in the first half, said he hadn’t seen a replay of the run, nor did he know if he went out of bounds.

“To be honest, my eyes were straight on the end zone, I wasn’t looking at the ground,” Underwood said.

The call kept N.C. State’s offense on the field and three plays later, Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley sacked Thomas and forced a fumble.

Clemson recovered the fumble at the N.C. State 48 and it didn’t take long for Boyd to cash in the mistake. Boyd hit Martavis Bryant for a 30-yard score and a 20-7 lead with 5:25 left in the third.

The energy from the crowd of 57,583 turned to anger and the Wolfpack offense couldn’t get back in rhythm until Boyd added a second touchdown to Bryant, a 15-yarder with 11:27 remaining in the fourth quarter to push the Tigers’ lead to 26-7.

Thomas added a 4-yard touchdown run with 3:50 left but it was too late for the Wolfpack, which lost for the ninth time in 10 tries to the Tigers.

Doeren, who suffered the first home loss as a coach in his career, said there are no moral victories for pushing the third-ranked Tigers, not even after last year’s 62-48 track meet, but he said liked the fight of his team.

“It’s not a moral victory by any means,” Doeren said. “We do not accept losing here but I’m proud of the way we competed.”

The Wolfpack took a 7-6 lead on a 21-yard touchdown run by running back Shadrach Thornton with 11:03 left in the second quarter. Thornton, the team’s leading rusher a year ago, carried a handful of Clemson defenders the final four yards into the end zone.

N.C. State’s defense kept the Tigers high-powered offense in low gear until late in the second quarter. Boyd hit tight end Sam Cooper for an 11-yard touchdown to give the Tigers a 13-7 halftime lead.

N.C. State stayed close, which after a struggle with FCS-opponent Richmond on Sept. 7, didn’t look like it would happen during this ESPN showcase. But close wasn’t much of a consolation after the controversial third-quarter call.

“We knew we could hang with them,” Thomas said. “We expected to beat them, we didn’t do it.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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