RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Third-ranked Clemson didn't show its high-scoring form for much of Thursday night's trip to North Carolina State. While the Tigers were still good enough to stay unbeaten, it left them trying to figure out what was wrong afterward.
Clemson didn't score its first touchdown until late in the first half and didn't build a comfortable lead until early in the fourth quarter of a 26-14 win, though the Tigers took advantage of a critical third-quarter sequence to seize momentum.
Clemson came in averaging 45 points and 490 yards, but finished with 415 yards in its lowest scoring performance of the young season.
"It just wasn't smooth," said quarterback Tajh Boyd, who threw three touchdown passes. "I don't really know if it was anxiety or having 12 days off or it just wasn't as rhythmful as we wanted it to be. Then, we came back in the second half and did some great things."
Boyd's 30-yard scoring pass to Martavis Bryant capped the game-turning sequence — including an apparent Wolfpack touchdown negated by an official's whistle — that put the Tigers (3-0, 1-0 ACC) in control. Boyd found Bryant for another touchdown, with Bryant snatching the ball from defender Niles Clark for a 15-yard score that made it a three-possession game early in the fourth.
Boyd threw for 244 yards on 24-for-37 passing, with his first scoring toss coming on an 11-yarder to Sam Cooper with 2:23 left in the second that gave the Tigers a 13-7 halftime lead.
"Tajh is a perfectionist. That's the way he is in practice," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "That's the way he is all the time. He can't stand when he feels like he made a mistake. I just told him, 'Go to the next play.' I told (offensive coordinator Chad Morris), 'Just keep calling the game. We'll get him going.'"
Shadrach Thornton scored the Wolfpack's first touchdown on a 21-yard run in the second for a 7-6 lead, but N.C. State (2-1, 0-1) couldn't complete the upset in coach Dave Doeren's first league game.
"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."
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