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Clemson defense complements offense in 26-14 win

The SportsXchange

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Clemson's high-powered offense received a big assist from its defense on Thursday night.

Tajh Boyd threw three touchdown passes and third-ranked Clemson kept North Carolina State in check for most of the second half in a 26-14 victory in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams at Carter-Finley Stadium.

"It's great to win on defense," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "I thought our defense was the difference in the game, especially when the offense wasn't clicking early on."

Clemson (3-0) has won nine of the last 10 meetings with N.C. State (2-1).

Boyd's 30-yard touchdown pass to Martavis Bryant with 5:25 to go in the third quarter gave the Tigers a 20-7 cushion. The scoring opportunity came after Vic Beasley's sack and Spencer Shuey's ensuing fumble recovery set up the Tigers in N.C. State territory.

Bryant caught a 15-yard touchdown pass with 11:27 remaining. Bryant, a junior, had his first multi-touchdown game.

"Coach talked to me all week about being consistent," Bryant said. "We just wanted to go out and perform."

That took time as the Tigers wasted some possessions before picking up the pace.

"We just missed some plays in the first half," Swinney said.

Boyd tied former Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke for second place in ACC touchdown passes with 79. Former N.C. State quarterback Philip Rivers is first with 95.

Boyd ended up 24 of 37 for 244 passing yards without an interception.

Senior kicker Chandler Catanzaro became Clemson's career scoring leader with 330 points, kicking two field goals and two extra points.

"Each of those points was critical, just huge," Swinney said.

The outcome marked the first home loss in 15 games as a head coach for Dave Doeren, who is in his first season with the Wolfpack and his third year overall as a head coach after a stint with Northern Illinois.

"It's not a moral victory by any means," Doeren said. "We do not accept losing here, but I'm proud of the way we competed."

N.C. State was 0 of 8 on third-down conversions until late in the third quarter and finished 3 of 16.

Wolfpack kicker Niklas Sade was wide right on a 48-yard field goal attempt on the first play of the fourth quarter. That was N.C. State's best scoring chance of the second half until a fourth-quarter possession that consumed 23 plays (including four fourth-down conversions) and covered 84 yards, ending on quarterback Pete Thomas' 4-yard keeper with 3:50 left.

"Glad to get that one over," Swinney said. "The goal is to be 3-0 right now and that's right where we are. ... I don't think you ever know everything about your team until you go on the road. I'm really proud of our guys and how they competed for four quarters."

Swinney said one irritation came when Clemson offensive tackle Isaiah Battle was ejected for a post-whistle personal foul with 1:33 to play.

Clemson led 13-7 at halftime, unable to get totally untracked on offense after averaging 29.5 first-half points in its first two games.

Clemson retook the lead on tight end Sam Cooper's diving 11-yard touchdown catch from Boyd with 2:23 left in the half. It came one play after Boyd picked up a first down on a fourth-and-1 run.

N.C. State went ahead 7-6 with 11:03 remaining in the second quarter with Shadrach Thornton's 21-yard touchdown burst up the middle. The Wolfpack traveled 92 yards in seven plays.

Thornton, who was suspended for the opener after a summer arrest and played only on special teams in the second game, was responsible for 53 yards on the scoring drive. He never had another carry or reception.

"Just wish we were in more situations where he could make plays for us," Thomas said.

Clemson used 14 plays on the game's opening possession, resulting in Catanzaro's 49-yard field goal. N.C. State sacked Boyd twice on the drive.

The Tigers' next points came three plays into the second quarter on Catanzaro's 46-yard field goal, capping another 14-play drive.

At that point, Clemson had taken 32 snaps compared to eight for N.C. State, yet the Tigers' lead was only 6-0. By the end, Clemson had 77 plays to N.C. State's 73.

NOTES: N.C. State senior OT Rob Crisp missed the game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. He had started the Wolfpack's first two games this season and has started 13 times in his career. ... Clemson played its first game since WR Charone Peake, the team's second-leading receiver, was lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL last week in practice. ... N.C. State knocked off Top 10 opponents at home the past two years, dropping Clemson in 2011 and Florida State in 2012. ... The annual football matchup between these schools is dubbed the Textile Bowl because both universities have renowned textile colleges.
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