No. 3 Clemson vs. NC State final score: Tigers pull away in 2nd half

Liz Condo-USA TODAY Sports

After being on upset watch early, the Tigers used a big second half to pull away Thursday night, perhaps with a little assistance from the refs.

A strong early showing from NC State's defense kept the Wolfpack close vs. No. 3 Clemson on Thursday night, but the Tigers rode a favorable second-half call from the refs and an improved offense to a 26-14 win at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.

After entering halftime with a slim 13-7 lead, Clemson (3-0) pulled away in the third quarter. That nearly didn't happen, though, when NC State running back Bryan Underwood broke what appeared to be an 83-yard touchdown run. The refs, however, claimed Underwood stepped out of bounds at the Clemson 47, eliminating a touchdown that would've presumably put the Wolfpack (2-1) ahead, 14-13.

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A NC State fumble followed, and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd hit wide receiver Martavis Bryant for a 30-yard touchdown pass. The result was a 14-point swing and a 20-7 lead for the Tigers.

Boyd started off iffy, missing on several early passes while struggling to get Clemson into the endzone. The game's first six points came off the leg of kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who knocked in two field goals from 45-plus yards. Boyd heated up late in the second quarter, though, engineering an eight-play, 56-yard drive that culminated with an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Sam Cooper. The score came off some nifty play design, as Cooper lined up as the pseudo-left tackle before breaking off downfield.

Clemson later put the game out of reach with a 15-yard pass touchdown pass from Boyd to Bryant with 11:27 remaining in the game.

NC State put up 378 yards of offense, but struggled to translate its ball movement into points. The Wolfpack were 3-of-16 on third downs, and also likely wore their offense out with several lengthy drives.

The frustration boiled over late in the game, as Clemson offensive tackle Isaiah Battle was ejected for throwing a punch on the Tigers' final drive.

Box Score Hero: Boyd overcame his weak start with a relatively sharp outing, finishing 24-of-37 for 244 yards and three touchdowns.

Rankings Ramifications: Clemson should stay put at No. 3, or at the very least not drop far, by pulling out the win. NC State will remain unranked.

But Did They Cover? No, Clemson fell short of covering the 14.5-point line.

For More On This Game: Head to Shakin The Southland for Clemson reaction. Backing the Pack has NC State covered.

Next Week's Schedule: Clemson hosts Wake Forest next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET for its homecoming game. NC State also plays at home in a late-afternoon game vs. Central Michigan.

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Spencer Hall’s Alphabetical | Bill Connelly’s Numerical | This Week in Schadenfreude

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