NC State has had problems with slow starts early in the season and as it turns out, when those slow starts come against elite teams, the repercussions are far more dire. Clemson scored a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter, with little resistance to speak of, and cruised to a 41-7 win.
State appeared broken from the start after the Tigers returned the opening kickoff beyond their own 40 and then rather casually marched down the field for an opening score. NC State quickly went three-and-out, and while the defense managed a critical stop, the offense once again went nowhere. That’d be a theme.
NC State was awful offensively, with little apparent purpose in terms of either the running game or the passing game. And—stop me if you’ve seen this before—it missed on a potential huge pass play between Ryan Finley and Kelvin Harmon.
But as much as that missed connection burned last year, it’s really just a side note this time around. Clemson was a lot better today. Orders of magnitude better. You can quibble on some details of execution here and there, no doubt, but none of them would change the fact that Clemson was just much, much better.
It’s not easy to make Ryan Finley look so clueless, to make State’s offensive line so unsure, but that is what the Tigers are capable of doing. This was not, by any means, a good effort by NC State, but don’t let that sell the Tigers short of what they did, either.
NC State wanted to put pressure on Trevor Lawrence, maybe force him into some freshman mistakes. NC State never got that pressure. (And anyway Lawrence proved above it.)
Instead, Clemson’s pressure made Finley look at times like the panicked freshman. When you win the point of attack, it makes such a huge difference. The scoreboard says as much.
Clemson won everything today. Sometimes you just (grudgingly) gotta tip your cap.