No. 19 Clemson 19, NC State 17
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Call it the passing of time.
No. 19 Clemson, known through the years for a bruising ground attack, went airborne for the second week in a row Saturday, rallying for a 19-17 victory in the final nine minutes behind Nealon Greene’s precision passing and timely running.
Greene was 20-for-32 for 250 yards _ marking the first time in school history Clemson has posted consecutive 250-yard passing games. His 326 yards of offense was also a career high for the senior, who improved to 3-0 against the Wolfpack (2-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).
``Good quarterbacks are going to do that to you,″ Wolfpack coach Mike O’Cain said. ``You have to credit him, that’s a good football player making things happen.″
Matt Padgett’s 20-yard field goal with 19 seconds left proved to be the winning points, but Greene was the star down the stretch. He competed 7-of-10 passes in the final 8:54 after the Tigers (2-0, 1-0) had fallen behind 17-13.
Greene remained in the game on the final drive after getting his left ankle stepped on.
``He is a gutty, gutty performer,″ Clemson coach Tommy West said. ``I mean he was playing on one leg out there at the end and I said, `Are you all OK? Can you make it?′ And he said, `There ain’t no way I’ll come out of this game.‴
Greene was 20-for-31 in his first game a week ago under new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger.
``The type of offense we had when I came in was more of Raymond left, Raymond right,″ Greene said in reference to star running back Raymond Priester. ``We have a new offensive coordinator and he’s using all the talents we have now. You could see in the last couple of drives how we worked the ball around and got some different guys the ball.″
The Tigers broke a string of five straight losses in ACC openers and moved to 2-0 for the first time since 1991.
``That was one of our things in fall camp was to come in and start off with a bang,″ offensive lineman Glenn Roundtree said. ``The last two years we’ve been starting off 3-3, 1-3 _ you know, waiting until October to get our first quality win.″
Padgett’s 30-yarder closed the score to 17-16 with 6:09 left as Greene completed passes of 30, 13 and 24 yards on the drive.
After holding the Wolfpack on downs, Clemson got the ball back with 4:35 left. Despite being sacked twice on first down, Greene drove the Tigers 78 yards in 14 plays to set up the winning field goal.
``I didn’t have to say anything when I went into that huddle,″ Greene said, reflecting on the start of the game-winning drive. ``They looked at me and they said, `This is the position you want to be in and you have to make the plays for us. The ball is in your hands.‴
Greene completed a 21-yard pass, ran 28 yards on a keeper and then hit Brian Wofford on a 25-yard crossing pattern to the Wolfpack 5 as time ticked down.
Padgett then came on to kick his fourth field goal of the game.
``We had been playing solid and I don’t think this is much of a letdown,″ Wolfpack senior tight end Mark Thomas said. ``We’re a team, we’re unified and we’re going to play together no matter what. This is just a niche in the track. We’re going to flush it and move on.″
Jamie Barnette, quiet in the first half, rallied the Wolfpack twice in the second half despite losing the ball two times near the Clemson goal line.
The sophomore’s first fumble was returned 74 yards midway through the third quarter by Clemson linebacker Rahim Abdullah. He also returned a fumble for a score in the Tigers’ win over the Wolfpack last season.
Barnette’s second fumble at the Clemson 4 later in the quarter resulted in the Wolfpack settling for a 26-yard field goal and a 10-10 tie heading into the fourth quarter.
Padgett’s 47-yard field goal, second-longest of his career, gave the Tigers a short-lived 13-10 lead as Barnette found Torry Holt 29 seconds later on a perfect pump fake that froze the Clemson secondary.
N.C. State’s opening scoring drive was aided by an interference call against Antwan Edwards on third-and-14 that gave the Wolfpack a first down at the Clemson 41. A face-mask penalty later in the drive against the Tigers also helped set up Tremayne Stephens’ 5-yard scoring run.
Clemson drove to the N.C. State 36, 30, 32 and 8 but managed only a 25-yard field goal by Padgett in the first half. A fumbled pitch by freshman Javis Austin wasted one scoring opportunity early in the second quarter and Padgett was wide left on a 49-yard field goal attempt later in the period.
The Clemson defense was tough in the opening half, limiting Barnette and the Wolfpack to 100 yards of offense. N.C. State came in averaging 484 yards a game, of which 299.5 came from the elusive Barnette. However, the sophomore was only 5-for-11 for 46 yards passing in the opening 30 minutes while losing 13 yards rushing.