The first half of Clemson's ACC road game against NC State had a little bit of everything.
The No. 9 Tigers finally looked the part on offense with a spectacular scoring drive. They also struggled to keep it going, and the defense finally wilted near the end zone but it also forced a key turnover.
After 30 minutes of action, the score fell 7-7 after NC State missed a long field goal with three seconds to go. Both teams got an offensive touchdown, but there were so many miscues throughout. The Tigers had just 87 total yards and allowed 153 yards and 13 first downs.
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Here are several notable occurrences during the first half at Carter-Finley Stadium:
- Clemson's second drive looked much more like the Clemson offense everyone expected to see all season. Uiagalelei bought time on a brilliant strike to Joseph Ngata for a 29-yard play. It was one of the best passes he's thrown this season.
- Uiagalelei followed that up with another impressive throw when he rolled to his right and unloaded toward the end zone, where Justyn Ross went up and made a terrific catch and got not one but two feet in for a 32-yard touchdown.
- Clemson's offense is still leaving too many plays on the field. While Uiagalelei looked good outside the pocket, he struggled when he stayed in the pocket. The ball just isn't coming out quickly enough.
- Uiagalelei's high throws, which have been a problem all season, got him in late in the second quarter when he threw one to Davis Allen that was deflected into the hands of NC State's Drake Thomas for an interception.
- The Tigers had just nine rushing yards. Will Shipley has them all and just can't find much running room. The Wolfpack are good at the line of scrimmage, but if Clemson can't find a running game, it's going to be hard to win this game.
- NC State repeatedly challenged Clemson's defense early on the edges with short passes and screens but the Tigers continually made sure tackles.
- Xavier Thomas had a huge first half. The senior defensive end got his first solo sack of the season on a third-down play early in the second quarter to force an N.C. State punt. Then he stripped NC State quarterback Devin Leary to end a promising Wolfpack drive. He's off to a nice start this season with the pressures he's getting on quarterbacks.
- Penalties were a big storyline in the first half. NC State was flagged nine times for 85 yards, including a taunting personal foul that kept the Tigers' scoring drive going. Clemson was penalized six times for 40 yards, including several procedural infractions.
- Emeka Emezie made a play and great catch on Andrew Booth Jr. for the first offensive touchdown allowed by Clemson's defense this season.
- Clemson linebacker and defensive leader James Skalski is hurting. He hasn't looked the same since stopping that shovel pass against Georgia Tech last week. He had to be helped off the field then and was banged up again at NC State.
- Baylon Spector, another Clemson linebacker, limped off the field late in the second quarter. If he doesn't return, the Tigers' depth will be incredibly tested.
- This defense just isn't the same without Skalski, especially against the run. With defensive tackle Tyler Davis out as well, let's see if the Wolfpack tries to get Clemson on its heels by running the football.
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