GRADES: Offense rolls, defense doesn't

CLEMSON - An early double-digit deficit proved to be all the Tigers and Tajh Boyd needed against the 'Pack. However, the defense also took a major step backwards.

After scoring 13 points early, the Tigers lost their edge for three straight series. Then it was lights out. Literally. Clemson went on a 42-0 scoring barrage as Tajh Boyd carved up State's vaunted secondary with relative ease. By the time it was all said and done, Boyd accounted for an ACC-record eight touchdowns, including five through the air and three on the ground. For most of the night, whatever Clemson wanted to do offensively, it did. Andre Ellington rushed for over 100 yards. Brandon Ford scored twice, including a 69-yarder. Martavis Bryant also got into the act with a long TD reception, too. It was the kind of night the Tigers could have scored 100 if they wanted. Fortunately, they didn't need to. The turnovers and early three-and-outs prevent the true "A" grade.

All you need to know here is Clemson gave up a mind-boggling FOUR one-play touchown drives. N.C. State also scored 21 points in just a four-minute stretch during the first quarter, erasing an early 13-0 Tiger lead. The pass rush was abysmal and State QB Mike Glennon took full advantage, throwing for what seemed like 13 miles and just as many scores. All of the good will established in recent weeks evaporated quickly after this one. Consider: Clemson gave up a 450-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher, a 350-yard all purpose yardage outing by Tobias Palmer and two 100-yard receivers. What else do you need to know? It was a dismal outing. Absolutely dismal. There was poor coverage. There was bad tackling. Overall, it was one of the more dissapointing efforts we've seen on either side of the ball in quite some time.

There was Chandler Catanzaro, who coverted two long field goals in the first quarter... and then everybody else. Once again Clemson struggled in the return game, fumbling a second-quarter punt and giving up another long return on a kickoff. There were also issues with short kickoffs too as Bradley Pinion replaced Spencer Benton in the second quarter. Clemson's special teams have been strong this season, but the last two weeks have left much to be desired. This must be cleaned up before next week's game against South Carolina.

It was obviously a tale of two units. The offense was outstanding, as it has been all year long. The defense was dreadful, and reminiscent of the first three games of the season. Still, it was obvious Clemson wasn't flat for the start of the game as it scampered out to a quick 13-0 lead. While State battled back with 24 unanswered points, the Tigers answered with 42 in a row of their own, effectively ending any hopes of an upset.

The most important thing about Saturday night was the fact Clemson won the game. Sure, there were plenty of tense moments but there was never a feeling Clemson wasn't ready to play. And for the first time in many years, the Tigers avoided a season without losing to an opponent they shouldn't have lost to. Up next? The annual grudge match with South Carolina. The Gamecocks have won each of the last three games between the two teams - all in impressive fashion. But this feels like a different Clemson team, doesn't it? The offense is one of the most explosive the ACC has ever seen, and the Tigers' home-field advantage is as strong as ever with 13 consecutive wins in the books. But South Carolina is strong defensively, and comes to Clemson ranked inside the top 10 of the BCS. Simply put, it's the biggest game in the history of the rivalry- especially with a potential berth in the Sugar Bowl at stake.

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