RALEIGH, N.C. — Clemson trailed much of the day. It faced a veteran ranked team with a strong defensive line. And it was playing in front of a hostile crowd in a game the sixth-ranked Tigers had to win to stay in the race for another College Football Playoff appearance.
In the end, Dabo Swinney’s bunch responded with the same big-game composure — even with a younger team that lost so many stars from last year’s national championship squad.
Feaster’s break-loose run up the middle and gave Clemson (8-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference, CFP No. 4) a 31-21 lead entering the fourth, then the Tigers had to hang on in the final seconds as the Wolfpack (6-3, 4-1, CFP No. 20) got one more shot to tie it.
“We’ve got a really young team,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said, “and I thought a lot of guys grew up tonight.”
Wallace was a good example. The sophomore came up with two huge plays after the Wolfpack’s final drive pushed to the Clemson 28, first when he broke up a pass to Jaylen Samuels near the goal line with a hard hit.
Then, after an illegal formation penalty by N.C. State wiped out completion for a first-and-goal, Wallace picked off Finley’s final overthrown fourth-down ball and returned it 55 yards to burn the clock and give Clemson a huge step forward to another ACC Atlantic Division title.
“There was no chance to win the division if we didn’t win up here,” Swinney said.
Finley threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns — including a 40-yard scoring throw to Kelvin Harmon on the first possession to lead the Wolfpack, whose players had talked openly about pursuing revenge after squandering a road win against Clemson in overtime last year.
In the end, this one ended like so many in the series, with the Tigers beating the Wolfpack for the sixth straight year and 13th time in 14 meetings.
“I mean it was a revenge game,” said Samuels, who had a touchdown catch and run. “We’ve been thinking about this game since last year. But they came in and played hard, that’s a great football team over there.”
Courtesy: Associated Press