The Clemson Tigers took their No. 3 ranking into Carter-Finley Stadium on Thursday night against NC State and escaped with a 26-14 victory in the ACC opener for both squads.
The Wolfpack have been notorious in the past for knocking off favored opponents and crushing BCS titles hopes. Last year, they upset unbeaten No. 3 Florida State in a Week 6 matchup. This year, however, N.C. State will have to look for another upset victim.
Clemson quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Tajh Boyd threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns on 24-of-37 passing while teammate Sammy Watkins reeled in 10 passes for 96 yards, but no scores.
The controversy surrounding this game, however, wasn't the star players or the 12-point defeat, but rather a controversial call-back of an NC State touchdown and a personal foul that drew an ejection.
Midway through the third quarter, Wolfpack wide receiver Bryan Underwood took a handoff in motion and broke what looked to be an 83-yard touchdown run that would have given NC State a 14-13 lead following the extra point. However, the referees blew the play dead at the 47-yard line, making it a 36-yard run and a first down instead.
By blowing the whistle, the refs marked the run as a dead ball, disallowing NC State head coach Dave Doeren the opportunity to have the play reviewed. Three plays later, Clemson forced a fumble on a Vic Beasley sack, giving the Tigers the ball.
The second most-talked about play wasn't even really a play. Clemson offensive lineman Isaiah Battle threw a punch at an NC State defensive player, warranting a 15-yard penalty and the ejection of Battle.
Though some could say that Battle's undercut had impeccable form, the punch should have never happened. I understand there is bad blood between the two teams, but this isn't Michigan and Ohio State. Lack of sportsmanship to that degree is unnecessary.
The Tigers' win tonight was anything but impressive. Though Boyd put up very good numbers, he will have to perform much better in the weeks to come if the Tigers have any thoughts of a national championship bid.
Although their remaining schedule is quite favorable for Clemson, there are still formidable dates with Florida State and South Carolina remaining. And don't forget possible trap games at Georgia Tech and Syracuse.