RALEIGH, N.C. — Every week, sports commentators have said this would be the week Clemson would trip up. This is going to be the week the Tigers are caught unaware and they “Clemson” again. And every week, the Tigers have proven themselves against teams out to prove something.
Clemson went into Raleigh this weekend, a haunting place for the Tigers that has proven a difficult venue every year. In 2011, N.C. State upset the would-be ACC Champions. In 2013, Clemson needed a controversial late score to escape with a win. This year, all they needed was Deshaun Watson to come away with a 56-41 victory at Carter Finley Stadium.
The Wolfpack came out fired up and were able to score twice in the first four minutes of the game. Jacoby Brissett capped the first drive of the game with a 13-yard touchdown run and would finish with 254 pass yards and three passing touchdowns to go with that score. He wouldn’t, however, find much running room the rest of the night as he finished with -2 yards after being sacked five times.
N.C. State would put up 389 yards on the night, second most against the Tigers this year, and 41 points, 17 more than Clemson has given up in any game. This was in large part caused by a strong Wolfpack offensive line providing run lanes for Matthew Days and Jaylen Samuels who combined for 142 yards on 15 carries. Much of that, though, was picked up on two carries, a Days run for 41 yards and a Samuels run for 66 yards.
While the Wolfpack proved problematic for the Clemson defense, Deshaun Watson and company proved they could overcome a bad day from their defense. Watson tied his own school record with six touchdowns, five through the air and one on the ground, while passing for 383. He had plenty of targets to choose from as Clemson depth of talent at receiver proved too much.
Eight different receivers caught a pass and each of Watson’s five touchdowns went to different receivers. Former walk-on Hunter Renfrow went from fighting for playing time to leading Clemson in receiving yards with 93 yards and a touchdown Saturday night. Renfrow was one of three freshmen to score on the night.
As the offensive line continues to improve and build depth, so does Wayne Gallman at running back. Gallman had a season high 172 rushing yards Saturday night.
The Tigers return home this week to play their biggest game of the year, Florida State. The winner will all but wrap up a spot in the ACC Conference Championship game, and a Clemson win would keep the Tigers at the front of the race for the College Football Playoffs.
Reach James Inabinet at 803-635-4016.