Tigers survive OT thriller with ‘Pack

By Alex Maminakis

Courtesy The Journal

CLEMSON — In a split second, Death Valley went from despair to elation — a gift from the football gods.

A missed 33-yard field goal by North Carolina State with the game tied and two seconds left in regulation sent Saturday’s game between the Wolfpack and No. 3 Clemson to overtime. A touchdown catch by Artavis Scott on the opening overtime drive and an interception by Marcus Edmond on N.C. State’s first overtime play sealed the deal.

The Tigers were given new life and used it to win a thriller at Memorial Stadium.

Clemson beat N.C. State 24-17 in the first overtime game in Death Valley since 2005 to improve to 7-0 on the season and 4-0 in conference play. The Wolfpack fell to 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the ACC.

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Kerry Gilstrap/Courier
Former Easley High School standout C.J. Fuller saw his workload increase for Clemson on Saturday after starting running back Wayne Gallman was knocked out of the game early. Fuller led the team with 56 yards on the ground.

“I really didn’t even watch the kick, I just watched the student section,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of N.C. State’s missed field goal. “When I saw them go crazy, I was like, ‘There’s a chance, we still got some life in us.’”

That missed kick was the climax, but the events that built up to that point throughout the game made for an uneasy afternoon for Clemson fans in Death Valley.

The Tigers turned the ball over four times — three fumbles and one interception. The interception was Watson’s first pass of the second half and was returned 28 yards by Mike Stevens for a touchdown to tie the game 10-10 — Watson’s first pick-six as a Tiger.

Wayne Gallman lost a first-quarter fumble on a play that knocked him out of the game with a concussion. Tyshon Dye fumbled on the goal line on a first and goal, and Mike Williams fumbled inside the N.C. State 10-yard line after fighting for extra yards. Not only did the turnovers kill drives, they took points away from Clemson and gave them to N.C. State.

But the Tigers prevailed.

“It’s all about faith and belief,” Watson said. “We knew that the pressure was on (N.C. State) and we just had faith to do what we got to do.”

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Kerry Gilstrap/Courier
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson battles for yardage during the Tigers’ 24-17 overtime win over N.C. State on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Clemson finished with 495 total yards of offense. Watson completed 39-of-52 pass attempts for 378 yards and two touchdowns, and Williams hauled in 12 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. With Gallman’s absence following his first-quarter concussion, the running game struggled — former Easley High School standout C.J. Fuller led the way with 56 yards.

Sophomore defensive lineman Christian Wilkins once again came up big for Clemson with a blocked field goal in the third quarter to keep the game tied at 10-10. Wilkins also ran the ball for a first down on a fake punt in the second quarter. Special teams played a big factor on Saturday, and Swinney said they won the Tigers the game.

Had Clemson fallen to N.C. State, there would have been many missed opportunities and turnovers to point to in blame. Instead, there were a bevy of heroes. Wilkins with his shining moments on defense and special teams, Jordan Leggett with key catches in the red zone both in regulation and overtime, Scott’s overtime touchdown and capped off by Edmond’s game-ending interception.

10-12 Page 1B.indd“It came down to the defense mainly the whole game because the offense had some slow starts,” Edmond said. “When it came down to the defense at the end of the day, we stepped up.”

A wave of relief swept over Death Valley when Edmond made the play. Clemson now heads into its bye week before traveling to Florida State with the confidence of a win rather the confusion of a loss. Swinney was confident in his team on Saturday and knows his players step up when a play needs to be made.

“When they had to have it, they made the play,” Swinney said of his players. “Whether it’s been on offense, whether it’s been a kick, whether it’s been a defensive play, when we’ve had to have it, we make a play. I can’t say enough about the heart of them for that.”