CLEMSON — Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei had two touchdowns on the ground and one in the air on Saturday night as the fifth-ranked Tigers defended their home turf in a 30-20 win over 10th-ranked NC State in Death Valley.
After heading into halftime with a narrow 13-10 lead, the Tigers (5-0) added 17 second-half points while limiting the Wolfpack (4-1) to just a field goal and a late garbage-time touchdown.
In a primetime matchup with ESPN’s “College GameDay” crew on location, Clemson got revenge for its 27-21 loss to NC State in Raleigh last season. The Tigers’ victory was their 37th consecutive win at home.
“That was Death Valley at its finest,” said 15th-year Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who now has a 101-20 record versus the ACC and a 53-4 home record. “Thankful to have the opportunity. We are getting better. Felt like we left a lot out there.”
The first half had all the hallmarks of an ACC defensive showdown between two top-10 schools until the Tigers stepped on the gas pedal in Memorial Stadium, outgaining the Wolfpack in yardage 354-279 while holding the Wolfpack to just 34 total rushing yards.
Uiagalelei and running back Will Shipley powered the Tigers on their first drive of the game but it didn’t result in a touchdown. Instead of going for the end zone, the Tigers opted for a 20-yard field goal from B.T. Potter on a 4th-and-3 to go up 3-0 at the 8:22 mark of the first quarter.
One week after his best game in a Clemson uniform when he racked up 371 passing yards and five touchdowns at No. 22 Wake Forest (4-1), Uiagalelei guided his offense to another important win with 209 passing yards and a team-high 73 rushing yards. Shipley added 60 yards on a dozen carries.
Right after Clemson’s game-opening field goal, the Wolfpack tied it up soon after with a 20-yard field goal from kicker Christopher Dunn.
At the 5:46 mark of the first quarter, Clemson’s Potter added a 46-yard field goal to go up 6-3.
Both teams spent much of the second quarter trading punts until NC State quarterback Devin Leary connected with Cedd Seabrough on a 2-yard touchdown pass as the Wolfpack went up 10-6 for their only lead of the game. Leary finished with 245 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception on 28-of-47 passing.
With two minutes left in the half, the Tigers responded and regained the lead thanks to a 1-yard touchdown run from Uiagalelei shortly before halftime.
There was a noticeable energy shift to begin the third quarter as Clemson’s defense forced the Wolfpack to punt on a three-and-out. The Tigers’ offense kicked it up a notch in turn, as Uiagalelei led a quick drive that resulted in a 20-10 score courtesy a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jake Briningstool, who led Clemson in receiving yards with 54 on four catches.
Although the Wolfpack stalled out on its next drive, Dunn knocked through a 49-yard field goal to cut Clemson’s lead to 20-13 six minutes into the third quarter.
In a game-breaking moment for both teams, NC State whiffed on a would-be first down catch that turned into an interception for Clemson’s defense; Potter then connected on a 44-yard field goal to put Clemson up 23-13 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
With three minutes left to play, Uiagalelei brought the crowd of 81,500 to its feet with a 9-yard scramble to the end zone to build the Tigers’ lead to 30-13.
Leary added a late touchdown for NC State but it was too late for a comeback at that point.
“That was a hard-fought game,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said. “Clemson outplayed us, and obviously that means they outcoached us today.”
The Tigers will look to go 6-0 next week as they travel to take on Boston College, while the Wolfpack are set to host No. 23 Florida State.