The troubles for NC State started early.
On the Wolfpack's opening drive, quarterback Harrison Beck's pass intended for John Dunlap was picked off by Clemson defensive back Chris Chancellor, and the Tigers took over with great field position.
Led by quarterback Cullen Harper, the Tigers marched methodically down the field and on third-and-three Harper found tailback C.J. Spiller flaring out of the backfield. Matched up with defensive end Audi Augustin, Spiller, who will win the battle against a defensive end everytime, caught the pass and dived into the endzone for the touchdown.
"He was suppose to cover him," said Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien. "That was probably not a good choice."
NC State bounced back, as senior Darrell Blackman came up big. Blackman returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for the touchdown to tie the score at 7. The 99-yard kickoff return was the longest in school history and Blackman's first touchdown of the season. The previous long, a 98-yarder, occured on October 5, 1946. Howard Turner accomplished the feat that day, also against Clemson.
As they would do all game, Clemson kept attacking the Wolfpack, the big play coming on a 34-yard James Davis run to the NC State 12-yard line. On 3rd-and-12, the Pack held and forced a 28-yard field goal by the Tigers, pushing the lead to 10-7.
Beck would go down on NC State's next possession. Dropping back to pass, he was sacked by Tiger defensive end Ricky Sapp and Beck appeared to twist his knee. He left the game with the injury and didn't return.
"[Harrison] has a knee, but I don't think it's anything permanent or long-term," said O'Brien. "We won't know until tomorrow. If we lost everybody else I guess he could have come back in."
Following a short punt by the Pack, Spiller would reach the endzone again, this time via a dynamic 44-yard touchdown run. Taking the handoff out of the shotgun, Spiller broke an arm tackle and dodged three defenders in the secondary as he took it to the house. Spiller's second score gave the Tigers a 17-7 advantage as they completely dominated the first quarter. Clemson tallied 220 yards of total offense, to just 20 for the Wolfpack.
With Beck on the sidelines, the Pack turned to Daniel Evans, and the redshirt junior started off with a few completions to get the offense finally moving. However, the turnovers would continue, this time with a trick play gone-bad. Evans handed to Andre Brown who flipped it back to the quarterback, but Evans' pass intended for Dunlap was intercepted by Mike Hamlin, the Pack's second interception of the day.
As they did on the previous possessions, Clemson cashed in. This time the big play came from Jacoby Ford. Taking a reverse, Ford raced 53 yards to NC State 11-yard line. A few plays later, Harper would find James Davis leaking out the backfield for the 3-yard touchdown pass, increasing Clemson's lead to 24-7.
Despite the turnover, Evans had showed some glimpses of being able to move the football, and on the next possession he took it to another notch. On back-to-back long-yardage situations, Evans completed two deep-outs to extend the drive, and State pushed tempo by utilizing a no-huddle offense. The change seemed to caught Clemson offguard, and it allowed the Pack to start being able to rush the football. Brown found a crack in the line and scooted through for a 17-yard touchdown run. The 10-play, 81-yard drive pulled the Pack within 10 at 24-14 with just over five minutes remaining in the half. Evans was 4-of-4 for 58 yards on the scoring drive.
"I think he played well," said Blackman. "He managed the game."
Clemson essentially dominated everywhere in the first half but the scoreboard. Sure they led, but the 27-14 halftime advantage didn't tell the entire story. The Tigers piled up 367 yards of total offense, with 222 coming on the ground on just 20 attempts (10.2 YPC). Cullen Harper completed 17-of-24 for 145 yards and two scores. NC State totaled just 129 yards, as Evans completed 9-of-13 for 71 yards.
Clemson's dominance continued in the second half, as the Tigers rolled up another 150 yards in the third quarter and limited the Pack to -9 yards on its way to increasing its lead to 37-14.
NC State didn't reach the endzone again until the fourth quarter, when Evans hit Blackman on a 9-yard scoring pass. The Pack's turnover problems showed back up as on the two-point conversion, Evans was intercepted by Mike Hamlin, who returned the pick the length of the field for the two points. The Tigers would add a field goal for good measure to improve to 4-0 on the season with the 42-20 victory.
The Wolfpack's defense had problems all day containing Clemson's offensive standouts, as the Tigers totaled 602 yards of offense.
"I'm a little surprised about our defense, but Clemson is a powerful football team, and they're much different from two years ago," said O'Brien. "They're running with more power and straight ahead. We couldn't tackle their running backs. When they're that powerful, you can't stop them."
"It was a tough game and a very hard loss for us because we thought we could do better than that," said true freshman Markus Kuhn.
NC State's offense didn't do any better. The Pack's 202 total yards was a season low, and the offensive line had problems protecting all game.
"We got overwhelmed," said O'Brien. "We needed to control the line of scrimmage, and we couldn't. We couldn't get first downs or third down conversions. We couldn't stop them on their third downs. When you get beat, you get beat, and we got beat solidly.
"They dominated us at the line of scrimmage. That was the story of the game."
NC State (1-3) returns to the field next Saturday against Louisville, a program that will head to Raleigh off back-to-back losses.