On Saturday, an uncharacteristically flat Clemson Tigers offense was at the helm of a dreadful loss against NC State, 27-21, in double overtime — resulting in a 2-2 record to start the season from the ACC powerhouse, practically signaling the end of their playoff hopes.
The Wolfpack outmatched Clemson’s total offensive output with 386 total yards, while Dabo Swinney’s team mustered only 214 yards.
Tigers QB DJ Uiagalelei completed 12-of-26 pass attempts, throwing for 111 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Clemson’s heir to the offense, post Trevor Lawrence, was outplayed by NC State’s Devin Leary — who completed 32-of-44 passes, 238 yards and four passing touchdowns to join an NC State offense that was humming all around. Running back Nicky Person, Jr. ran for 91 yards on 21 carries, while Wolfpack wideout Emeka Emezie caught 14 passes from Leary for 116 yards.
The double overtime loss, also made possible by poor kicking from NC State that failed to seal the victory before the end of regulation, was a hard-fought effort by the Tigers but also displayed a vulnerability not seen from this team in the roughly seven years of ACC dominance that preceded the 2021 season.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that have not experienced this, so this is an opportunity for us to grow,” admitted Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, following Saturday’s loss. “Any time you go through any type of challenges or adversity, if you don’t let it define you or destroy you, it will develop. I’ve never been defined by a scoreboard.”
NC State’s Devin Carter caught the game-winning pass from Leary in double OT. Clemson failed to tie up the score with the ensuing possession, ending on a narrow miss in the end zone by Uiagalelei to receiver Justyn Ross, which welcomed swarms of Wolfpack fans to storm the field in celebration of Saturday’s upset win.
“The curse is broken, N.C. State fans, finally,” announced NC State coach Dave Doeren. “I’ve been here nine years and seen a lot of crazy stuff. And people have talked about it and didn’t believe it. But I’ve got to tell you: I think it was real, and it’s not there anymore. So we can move on now and be happy about that.”
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