AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker
Clemson’s hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff may be extinguished after four games.
The ninth-ranked Tigers suffered a 27-21 defeat to North Carolina State on Saturday to fall to 2-2.
Will Shipley tied the game at 14 points apiece on a five-yard run with 10:52 left in the game. Christopher Dunn missed a 51-yard field goal on North Carolina State’s next drive.
Dunn was also off the mark on a 53-yarder as the first half drew to a close. Fate provided the junior with an opportunity for redemption as the seconds ticked off the clock in regulation. Unfortunately for the Wolfpack, he pulled his third attempt to the left once again to set the stage for overtime.
Justyn Ross drew first blood for Clemson with a nine-yard touchdown reception in the first overtime period. Devin Leary kept NC State alive by hitting a wide-open Thayer Thomas for a score.
On the second play of the second overtime frame, Devin Carter somehow got a knee down as he hauled in a pass from Leary in the corner of the end zone.
ACC Football @ACCFootball
Devin Carter OH MY GOODNESS!! Pack back on top in 2OT!<a href=”https://twitter.com/PackFootball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@PackFootball</a> | <a href=”https://twitter.com/__d1c?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@__d1c</a> <br><br>📺: ESPN<br>📱: <a href=”https://t.co/oyHc16wzEG”>https://t.co/oyHc16wzEG</a> <a href=”https://t.co/s2tgquEzX9″>pic.twitter.com/s2tgquEzX9</a>
North Carolina State failed to convert its two-point attempt but still put the pressure squarely on Clemson to get a touchdown. On 4th-and-5, Ross appeared to lose track of a D.J. Uiagalelei pass on a fade route, and the ball fell to the turf.
Once again, Clemson’s offense failed to fire.
Following his encouraging cameo in place of Trevor Lawrence as a freshman, the belief was that Uiagalelei would hit the ground running as the full-time starter. Instead, the sophomore quarterback struggled again. He finished 12-of-26 for 111 yards, two touchdowns and one interception through the air. He also ran for 63 yards on nine carries.
A collective step backward was to be expected for Clemson after it lost not only Lawrence but also its leading rusher (Travis Etienne Jr.) and leading receiver (Amari Rodgers). But Uiagalelei seemed to check off all of the boxes to be an elite signal-caller.
The Tigers’ inability to move the ball put a significant strain on a defense that saw both James Skalski and Bryan Bresee get injured. North Carolina State finished with a 41:48-18:12 edge in time of possession.
The Wolfpack also outgained the Tigers 386-214. NC State was in the driver’s seat for most of the game.
Clemson missed out on the inaugural College Football Playoff in 2014 but proceeded to make six straight semifinals. The program has become almost too big to fail, both because of the blue-chip recruits it regularly attracts and the lack of serious competition it gets from the ACC.
Now, Dabo Swinney and his players will have to adjust expectations.
The path to a New Year’s Six bowl game is still wide open for the Tigers. Barring the collapse of multiple other contenders, a national championship is probably out of the question, however.