GRADES: Tigers humble State

CLEMSON - It didn't take long to figure out Clemson meant business Saturday afternoon against the Wolfpack.

Let' start with this - Clemson did whatever it wanted to Saturday afternoon. Whether it was in the down-field passing game from Deshaun-Watson-to-Mike-Williams or the QB power, the Tigers offense delivered in every way imaginable. Credit Chad Morris for dialing up for quarterback runs early to sustain several drives. Credit Deshaun Watson for making the throws he needed to make when the game still was undecided. Credit an offensive unit with a focused and determined effort that will give opposing defensive coordinators nightmares in the weeks to come. In all, the Tigers registered nearly 500 yards of offense, enabling multiple reserve players to get some much-needed playing time, but it could have been much more. The only bad aspect of Saturday's win was the fact Jay Guillermo exited in the first half with a left lower leg injury and never returned. Backup QB Cole Stoudt also left the game in the fourth quarter with a shoulder strain.

All you need to know is that it took nearly 22 minutes of game time before N.C. State got a single first down. In all, State mustered just 156 yards and never seriously threatened to score. QB Jacoby Brissett was second in the ACC in total offense coming into the game, averaging over 300 yards per contest, but he ended with just 35 yards passing and 16 on the ground. If that wasn't enough, Vic Beasley had a sack, forced a fumble and scored a touchdown all on the same play while tying the all-time school sack record in the process. And hey - B.J. Goodson also looked like the best running back on the roster with a fourth-quarter fumble recovery too. It was the Tigers' first shutout of an ACC team since 1998, but it will be remembered as the best defensive performance of the Brent Venables era. Who's next?

Ammon Lakip was 2-of-3 on field goals, with his lone miss 48 yards out. Bradley Pinion was solid in the punting game when needed. Germone Hopper showed some jets on a punt return that was negated by a penalty but otherwise return game was average once again. There were no major miscues, but you'd still like to see more consistency from this group.

After failing to put together a complete game during the first month of the season, October has a different feel, doesn't it? You have to love the play-calling by Chad Morris - using Watson more in the running game to keep State's defense off-balance. And you also have to love Brent Venables, who had his unit ready for anything N.C. State thought about doing offensively. Simply put, this team was ready to play in every phase of the game, and it finally showed for four consecutive quarters. Bravo!

Saturday was nearly a game of perfection for the Tigers. The offense rang up 40-plus points while the defense pitched a shutout. For the first time all season, Clemson played a complete game and showed its true potential. Up next will be a battle against a very physical Louisville defense that ranks as one of the best in the country. It may also be the Tigers' last true test until mid-November. With five games in the books, Clemson is showing flashes of its 2014 potential, but there is still work to be done. There are aspects to the zone-read Watson must clean up. Clemson's special teams are pedestrian at best. The defense played lights out against N.C. State, but can it do it in back-to-back weeks? Regardless, Saturday's win was a thing of beauty and this year's version of the Clemson Tigers appear to be trending upwards yet again. Top Stories