RALEIGH, N.C. - As good as Ryan Finley and N.C. State's offense were in the first half of Saturday's ACC showdown, Clemson's defense proved better in the end.
After Finley completed his first 14 passes to give the No. 20 Wolfpack a halftime lead, No. 4 Clemson clamped down in the second half, and the Tigers rallied for a 38-31 win at Carter-Finley Stadium.
The win puts the Tigers (8-1, 6-1 ACC) in position to clinch the ACC Atlantic Division title with a win Saturday against Florida State. The Wolfpack (6-3, 4-1) needs to win its three remaining games and have Clemson lose at Florida State to win the division title.
Finley threw two touchdowns during a magnificent first half to give Wolfpack a 21-17 halftime lead.
But Clemson's defense stuffed N.C. State in the third quarter, limiting the Wolfpack to just 48 total yards. After completing 14 passes in a row to start the game, Finley hit just four of his next 13.
Though its offense slowed, the Wolfpack maintained a lead and was in position to further protect it when Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant made his biggest play of the game in the third quarter.
Facing third-and-6 from the Wolfpack 45 with 6:13 to play in the quarter, Bryant faced a heavy pass rush and rolled to his right. On the run, he fired a pass perfectly downfield where Deon Cain caught it for an 8-yard gain to keep the drive alive.
Bryant ran the ball twice and completed two more passes to give the Tigers first-and-goal from the 7. With 3:31 to play in the quarter, Bryant tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Cain giving Clemson its first lead of the game at 24-21.
On the final play of the third quarter, Tavien Feaster broke through the line and sprinted for an 89-yard touchdown run and a 31-21 Clemson lead.