The most interesting part of N.C. State’s home loss to Clemson on Saturday night was the final 3 minutes.
Not because it was close, the fifth-ranked Tigers had the game in the bag in the first quarter and won 55-10, rather how they got their final six points.
N.C. State’s Tabari Hines muffed a punt at his own 23-yard line with 2 minutes and 49 seconds left. Up 49-10, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney could have handed the ball off a few times, or taken a knee to kill the clock, and ended the game.
The Tigers, with their backups and other deeper cuts from their depth chart, went for a final touchdown. They got it, and then Swinney had linebacker James Skalski attempt the final PAT (he missed it.)
The two coaches had a brief handshake and then moved on. N.C. State coach Dave Doeren didn’t have a problem with what the Tigers did.
“I don’t really have a lot to say about it,” Doeren said. “It’s their third (string) or fourths in the game. You have to try to stop them.
“Obviously it’s something as a coach you don’t like to see happen, but I’ve done the same thing in the past. You put your backups in and you let them play football.”
Doeren called timeout with 22 seconds left, before second and goal from the 1, to try to stop the Tigers from getting the last score.
Backup quarterback Chase Brice tried to throw a pass to receiver Will Swinney (the coach’s son) in the end zone. That play didn’t work but Michael Dukes was able to punch in the 1-yard run on third down for the touchdown.
Skalski came out for the PAT, after an offensive lineman ran for a short touchdown in the second quarter. Doeren let center Garrett Bradbury run for a short touchdown in last year’s 58-3 blowout win over East Carolina, so he didn’t really have room to complain.
Doeren was more upset with Hines for making a poor decision to try to play the punt, which was rolling around the ground and should have just been downed by Clemson.
“First of all, we can’t muff the punt,” Doeren said. “I thought that was a really poor decision. I’m not sure what Tabari was thinking on that play.”
Not that Swinney felt like there was anything to complain about or unusual about the post-game interaction with Doeren. The two have some history in minor dust-ups, with Doeren questioning the use of a laptop on the Clemson sideline during the 2017 game here.
But Swinney shot down the notion that the post-game handshake was “frosty” or that he had any kind of problem with Doeren.
“There’s nothing,” Swinney said. “What kind of question is that? What was frosty about the handshake? ... Dave and I have a great relationship. That’s just a question trying to create something. It wasn’t frosty. There wasn’t anything frosty.”
Swinney said Doeren wished him luck and said the brief exchange was “very nice.”
“A game like that, you’re not going to stand out there and sing ‘Kumbaya,’ ” Swinney said.