RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- No last-second excitement, no worries about
the outcome. For the first time this season, Clemson got it right.
James Davis ran for a career-high 143 yards and two touchdowns
before leaving with a broken wrist, Charlie Whitehurst threw for
two more scores and the Tigers beat North Carolina State 31-10 on
Thursday night for their first win in more than a month.
"It was nice to win one going way," center Dustin Fry said.
"If you look at my fingernails, there are no more left, and it's
from all those close games we've been losing."
The loss was the Wolfpack's sixth in a row at home to a Division
I-A opponent -- all in the Atlantic Coast Conference -- and led to
many early departures from another sellout crowd at Carter-Finley
Stadium. To qualify for a bowl, N.C. State (2-3, 1-3) must win four
of its final six games, a stretch that includes trips to No. 4
Florida State and No. 14 Boston College.
None of that matters to the Tigers (3-3, 2-3). After beating
Maryland on Sept. 10, they lost their next three games by a total
of 13 points, with two going into overtime.
"We've played a tough schedule, and when you play against
people like that, you get lots of games that go down to the wire,"
Tigers coach Tommy Bowden said. "Sure, I wish we could have won a
few more, but I like the way things are shaping up."
Clemson shook off any lasting bad memories with a balanced
offensive performance, piling up 489 yards while burning the
Wolfpack with a variety of deceptive plays.
"We've kept them off-balance with our formations," Whitehurst
said. "We threw when they were expecting us to run, and we ran
with they thought we'd throw. It was a great game plan on our
Whitehurst finished 22-for-31 for 246 yards, and Davis ran for
their best total in exactly four years, when Woody Dantzler had 184
yards in a loss to N.C. State. Davis said he was told he has a
small fracture, and he plans to return by the end of the month,
when the Tigers play at Georgia Tech.
"I wanted to have a 200-yard game, but we got the win, and
that's the most important thing," Davis said.
About the only Clemson did wrong was commit penalties. Coming
into the game, it ranked second in the country with less than four
infractions a game, but that discipline disappeared against the
The Tigers were flagged nine times for 80 yards, including a
pair of personal fouls in the second quarter that helped N.C. State
score its only touchdown. Gaines Adams roughed punter John Deraney
to keep the drive alive, and linebacker Nick Watkins hit
quarterback Jay Davis late to move the ball to Clemson's 20.
Darrell Blackman did the rest from there, shrugging off three
tackles before sprinting to the end zone to cut the Tigers' lead to
21-7. The run was part of a dazzling game for the sophomore, who
finished with 219 yards, including 161 on three kickoff returns.
"I've never seen so many long runs on kickoffs," N.C. State
coach Chuck Amato said. "Darrell Blackman is an awfully good
Still, it wasn't enough. The Wolfpack made their own share of
mistakes, particularly while falling behind in the first half.
Blackman muffed a punt and later fumbled after catching a screen,
Toney Baker coughed up the ball twice and N.C. State jumped
offsides six times.
And now Amato might have a quarterback controversy. Davis was
benched for a while in the fourth quarter and replaced by Marcus
Stone. On Stone's first play, he threw a 29-yard pass to Lamart
Barrett to get the Wolfpack in scoring position.
But a fourth-down pass to Tramain Hall in the end zone fell
incomplete, ending what essentially was the final chance for N.C.
"They are a really fast team, and they gave us a lot of
different looks," Jay Davis said. "They move and shift around a
lot, and that gave me a hard time picking up a read on their
Davis was 15-for-31 for 133 yards and an interception, and Stone
finished 4-for-5 for 42 yards.
"Jay's been so good. He really has," Amato said. "But he
didn't have his best game. I felt we had to make a change."