RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina State forced D.J. Uiagalelei into a fourth-down incompletion in the second overtime to beat ninth-ranked Clemson 27-21 on Saturday, an outcome that shakes up the Atlantic Coast Conference race and deals a huge blow to the Tigers’ College Football Playoff hopes.
Uiagagelei slightly overthrew Justyn Ross near the goal line on fourth down to end this one, sending the Wolfpack sprinting in from the sideline followed immediately by red-clad fans pouring onto the field to celebrate N.C. State's first win in the series in a decade.
Devin Leary threw for four touchdowns, including the winning 22-yard pass to Devin Carter — who made a twisting adjustment to the back-shoulder throw and got both knees down inside the back right corner of the end zone for the lead to start the second OT.
N.C. State (3-1, 1-0 ACC) controlled play most of the way, nearly doubling Clemson in total offense through regulation while converting more than half of its third-down chances to stay on the field. The Wolfpack also won despite a penalty-filled day and three missed field goals from normally reliable kicker Christopher Dunn, including him pulling a 39-yarder to end regulation wide left and give the Tigers another shot.
“I don't think the scoreboard was indicative of how we played," Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said. "I thought we controlled the ball, won the line of scrimmage, didn't flinch."
It was a brutal day for the Tigers (2-2, 1-1), who now have a second loss to make it an unlikely climb to extend their streak of making every year of the playoff since the first edition in 2014. It also is a big setback in the Atlantic Division for the six-time league champions, while injuries mounted with linebacker James Skalski, defensive tackle Bryan Bresee and running back Will Shipley being knocked from the game.
Clemson: The Tigers came in having scored just 17 points in their two games against Bowl Subdivision opponents, including failing to reach the end zone in their season-opening loss to No. 2 Georgia. Nothing in this game alleviated any of those offensive concerns, with the Tigers struggling to block up front to consistently sustain drives. The Tigers finished with just 214 total yards, with Uiagalelei throwing for 111 yards and two scores while the Tigers managed 103 on the ground.
“The criticism is warranted because that's where we are right now," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “That's what we displayed. With the way we've performed, you're going to get criticism and you're going to get comments and things like that.
"You know what? That comes with the territory because the expectation and the standard at Clemson and who we are, we're not meeting it. It's just that simple.”
N.C. State: For the first time in Doeren's nine-year run, the Wolfpack earned a win in a measuring-stick game against a marquee opponent — this one the first win for Doeren against a top-10 opponent. The painful shortcomings had piled up time and time again, including close ones to the Tigers in 2016 and 2017, and looked possible again when Dunn missed the short field goal to win a game in which the Wolfpack had been the better team for long stretches. But N.C. State responded with resilience, scoring touchdowns in both OT sessions before coming up with the winning stop.
The Tigers started the year at No. 3 but are set to take a big tumble after suffering a second loss before the end of September. The Wolfpack could earn an AP Top 25 ranking with this big win.
Clemson: The Tigers play another Atlantic Division game, hosting Boston College next Saturday.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack’s schedule dips back out of league play with a home game against Louisiana Tech next Saturday.
This story has been corrected to show Clemson has made every year but one of the College Football Playoff, not every year.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap