C.J. Spiller became the first player in school history to record a touchdown passing, rushing and receiving in the same game, as he led the No. 24 Clemson Tigers (7-3, 5-2) over the N.C. State Wolfpack (4-6, 1-5), 43-23 at Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Spiller gained 97 yards on the ground and added three catches for 48 yards on a day that Clemson racked up 254 rushing yards as a team.
Head coach Tom O'Brien was at a loss after the game when he was asked if there were any positives for the Pack, who are now eliminated from postseason contention.
"We had too many drops and just could never get off on the right foot," O'Brien said. "An early touchdown would have helped out cause. We simply made too many mistakes and allowed too many big plays defensively. We don't want to be in a situation like this but we're in it and you have to adjust. Plus, you have to give a lot of credit to Clemson."
The Pack limited the Clemson offense to just 15 yards on their opening drive but started with the ball at their own seven yard line. After picking up a first down on three straight Toney Baker runs, the offense sputtered to a stop and the Pack was forced to punt, giving Clemson great field position. The Tigers quickly found themselves in the red zone but could only come away with a 28-yard field goal.
On the ensuing drive, Russell Wilson was intercepted by Byron Maxwell at the 25-yard line, his tenth in the last six games, and then the Clemson offense started heating up. Thanks to two third down conversions, including a 25-yard pass from Kyle Parker to Michael Palmer, Clemson went up 10-0 after a 17-yard touchdown run by Jacoby Ford on an end around.
The Pack again could not answer the Clemson score and was forced to punt after losing nine yards on the first three plays. Jeff Ruiz' six-yard punt from the Pack's own 11-yard line then set up a one-play scoring drive for the Tigers. Spiller took a pitch from Parker before pulling up to find Xavier Dye in the corner of the end zone and putting the Pack in a 17-0 hole.
The Pack's offense seemed destined to sputter again when they took the ball back but two crucial Clemson penalties on third downs, a personal foul and pass interference, led to a 12 play, 80 yard scoring drive, capped by an 18-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to George Bryan.
Clemson needed only 2:28 before answering the score with a touchdown pass of their own, an outstanding five-yard catch from Palmer in the back of the end zone. Clemson was helped by great field position, needing to travel only 57 yards for the score, due to the Pack's refusal to kick the ball to Spiller. That tally gave the Tigers a 24-7 lead going into halftime and enough yards to more than double the Pack's first half offensive output, 238 yards to 114. Wilson and his receivers could not get into rhythm during the first half as drops contributed to the quarterback collecting only four completions before the break.
The Pack came out looking like a different offensive team in the second half, driving 75 yards in nine plays to open the second half. Another Clemson personal foul on third down aided the drive, which was capped by an eight-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Jarvis Williams.
After Josh Czajkowski's kick went out of bounds, Clemson started their first drive of the half in great field position and looked like the same well-oiled machine that the Pack defense struggled against in the first half. After an eight-yard run by Spiller, it appeared as if the back fumbled the ball and the Pack recovered. The ruling on the field, however, was that the runner was down by contact and, although O'Brien challenged the call, the replay official did not have enough evidence to overturn the call. Clemson made the Pack pay two plays later when Spiller posted a 16-yard touchdown run.
"Had we gotten the call on that one, it would have provided us with a much-needed boost in momentum," O'Brien said. "The guys upstairs thought the ball came out early but apparently it didn't."
After the teams traded punts, Czajkowski connected on a 26-yard field goal to make the score 30-17. The drive was aided by a 26-yard, leaping catch from Baker which put the Pack on the 11-yard line, but the offense could not cover the remaining yardage and was forced to take the field goal.
Clemson answered the Pack's field goal with the history-making 34-yard touchdown reception from Spiller, followed by a 69-yard touchdown scamper from Jamie Harper on their next possession. On the Pack's last drive, however, back-up quarterback Mike Glennon drove the offense 56 yards down the field in under a minute to collect his first collegiate touchdown pass, a 2-yard strike to Williams, for his second score of the game. Glennon had two completions of more than 20 yards on the final drive and ended the game 4-of-6 for 56 yards with one touchdown.
"Our goal is to go in [to Virginia Tech] and win," O'Brien said. "We want to go to Virginia Tech, put together a game plan, and make a game of it. We need guys that want to go there and play. We told the guys if anyone doesn't want to play, don't sow up tomorrow, we don't need you."