Becoming national champions always involves some lucky breaks along the way, and the Clemson Tigers needed a big one from the referees in their next step towards an undefeated season, calling that Bryan Underwood, at some point during his 83-yard touchdown run, stepped out of bounds, calling the play dead and pretty much saving the ACC-hopefuls.
There are always momentum swings in every game, and in close one it often comes down to one play that makes or breaks the direction a game is taking. Clemson were ahead 13-7 midway through the third quarter. As always, the North Carolina State defense made things difficult for Boyd and the Clemson offense, but Boyd is a better quarterback than he was on his previous visit to Raleigh in 2011.
Bryan Underwood blazed down the sidelines on an 83-yard run, but while one official called a touchdown, someone way back blew his whistle, calling the play dead because Underwood stepped out of bounds. Non-reviewable. North Carolina State moved back to their 47, and the energy in the stadium evaporated.
It’s hard to tell from the replays if he was out or not, but he probably was. In any case, it was a big break Clemson caught, and it changed everything. Pete Thomas was sacked a few plays later, fumbling the ball, turning it over. On the Clemson drive, Tajh Boyd found Martavis Bryant on a 30-yard touchdown pass, and it was pretty much over from that point.
When you’re trying to have a great year, there’s always a few breaks. The guy stepped out of bounds. That’s a tough break for them and a good break for us.
Boyd remained on the right path for the Heisman trophy with a strong finish from the second quarter onward, completing 24-of-37 passes for 244 yards and three touchdown passes. The Wolfpack made it very difficult for Clemson to finish plays, but the moment their big play didn’t come through, the wind and motivation seemed to be knocked out of them.
The hero for Clemson, except for Boyd avoiding interceptions against an aggressive defense, was Vic Beasley, who got the sack and forced fumble on Pete Thomas, swaying the game back in Clemson’s direction. From that moment and going forward, Pete Thomas once again looked like a quarterback who knows he isn’t good enough to play well against these kind of teams.
I think a lot of people were looking for us to have a letdown game or ‘Clemsoning’ type of game, but I’m confident in the type of team we have. I’m confident in the type of players we have. The coaching staff does a great job. Again, it wasn’t perfect by any means. It wasn’t pretty by any means, but you gotta love going on the road and getting a win.
There aren’t that many places for a team as talented as Clemson to mess up in during the season. By winning 26-14 at North Carolina State, they avoided one of the few serious hurdles they have along the way to finally have their perfect season, as it always feels like the small games along the way are a much bigger risks than their annual showdowns with Florida State and South Carolina.