Clemson kept trying to give N.C. State the game. The Wolfpack just couldn’t make one last play to ruin the Tigers’ season.
Artavis Scott’s 10-yard touchdown catch in overtime let the third-ranked Tigers escape with a 24-17 win over the Wolfpack.
N.C. State (4-2, 1-1 ACC) could have won the game, but kicker Kyle Bambard missed a 33-yard field goal on the last play of regulation.
“We should have won that game,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said. “We were one play away from having a masterpiece.”
N.C. State’s defense forced four turnovers, and running back Matt Dayes ran for 106 yards and a score.
But it wasn’t quite enough to offset 378 passing yards from Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson or the Wolfpack’s own mistakes.
N.C. State was flagged 13 times for 120 yards, and quarterback Ryan Finley threw a pair of interceptions, including one in overtime to seal the win for the Tigers (7-0, 4-0).
Clemson got the ball first in overtime and scored when Watson found Scott in the end zone from 10 yards out.
Cornerback Marcus Edmond then intercepted Finley in the end zone on N.C. State’s first play in overtime.
It was Clemson’s seventh straight home win over N.C. State, and 20th straight overall at Memorial Stadium, but it was far from the cleanest performance or most impressive.
N.C. State used a 14-play, 75-yard drive to open the fourth quarter. Dayes’ 2-yard touchdown run tied the score at 17 at 11:29 in the fourth.
The drive was highlighted by a fourth-down conversion from Clemson’s 29-yard line. K’Von Wallace was called for pass interference on N.C. State’s Jaylen Samuels at 12:44 in the fourth quarter. It was Clemson’s first penalty of the game and a big one.
Dayes gave N.C. State a chance to win the game in regulation. He carried the ball nine times for 33 yards as the Wolfpack moved from its own 29 down to Clemson’s 12-yard line.
The drive nearly chewed up 7 minutes of the clock and left Clemson, and a sellout homecoming crowd, nervous for the Tigers’ ACC and national title hopes.
“We were trying to run the clock down and get into field-goal range,” Samuels said. “It was perfect.”
Almost perfect. Bambard pushed the kick from the middle of the field just wide right, his third miss of the game. The crowd gathered on Clemson’s hill below Howard’s Rock celebrated like it had just won the national title.
The Tigers looked nothing like the No. 3 team in the country for good chunks of Saturday’s game. N.C. State cornerback Mike Stevens returned an interception 28 yards on the first play of the second half to tie the game at 10.
The Wolfpack forced two more turnovers in the third quarter, both inside its own 10-yard line, to keep Clemson, a 17-point favorite, from getting any traction.
As the fans at Death Valley grew restless, Watson finally delivered a 4-yard TD run at 1:03 in the third quarter to take a 17-10 lead.
N.C. State answered but couldn’t come up with the last play it needed for its first road win over a top 5 team since 1967.
“It’s a tough loss,” Samuels said. “We had the game in our hands, we just have to finish.”