For the first time since the Notre Dame game, Clemson gave its opponent some hope. NC State scored quickly on its opening possession and just before halftime the Wolfpack was up 20-19 and threatening to score again.
But NC State missed a field goal and in the blink of an eye, Charone Peake was in the end zone and Clemson was back on top for good. The Tigers held control in the second half and won 56-41.
The 8-0 Tigers are No. 3 in the AP Poll and No. 5 in the Coaches Poll. Here are five thoughts on the high-flying Clemson Tigers.
1. How Do You Stop This Offense?
When Mike Williams was lost in the season’s first game, many wondered who the Clemson deep threat would be. For a few weeks the Tigers got by on Deshaun Watson runs and wide receiver screens. But Clemson now has an answer to the deep threat question. It’s everyone. Watson can still beat you with his legs and Artavis Scott is dangerous on short passes. But against NC State, Clemson showed that Peake, Deon Cain, Ray-Ray McCloud, Hunter Renfrow, and others can make plays downfield. Oh yeah, and...
2. Wayne Gallman Ran HARD
Take away the fumble in the third quarter and Gallman’s day was pretty much ideal with 31 carries for 172 yards and a touchdown. With a long run of 24 yards, Gallman was gaining his yardage with consistent, powerful runs each time he carried the ball. The NC State defense that was giving up 107 rushing yards a game coming in was abused for 240 by Gallman and the rest of the Tigers. His early success also opened up the passing game for Watson, who was sensational with 383 yards passing and five scoring throws.
3. The Special Teams Were Not So Special
Nyheim Hines’s 100-yard kickoff return was the start of a bad day on special teams. On a pooch kick to avoid kicking to Hines, Bra’Lon Cherry returned a kick 47 yards to the Clemson 33 and a Jayron Kearse offsides penalty on the kick gave the Pack five more yards. There were also two extra points blocked by NC State. By the end of the game, head coach Dabo Swinney was shaking his head over the special teams play.
4. Allowing Big Plays
This is something that has not happened much all year and defensive coordinator Brent Venables cannot be pleased. First, while not defensive responsibilities, the Hines and Cherry returns were huge plays. On the second play of the game, Matt Dayes set up the first touchdown with a 41-yard run. After Dayes left the game with an injury, his replacement Jaylen Samuels hit the Tigers with two large chunk plays. His 40-yard TD reception put NC State up 20-19 in the second quarter and his 66-yard run in the third quarter led to a one-yard score on the following play. The 389 yards allowed by the Clemson defense was not horrible, but how the Wolfpack got those yards is not what the Tigers want.
5. They Survived a Tough Environment With the Seminoles Looming
NC State has stung teams in this situation before. Clemson has Florida State coming to town next week and it would have been very easy to look ahead. But like they have all season long, the Tigers maintained their focus and delivered a double-digit win over a good opponent on the road. It was not a perfect performance, but it was a solid win before this weekend's big clash.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.