CLEMSON, S.C. — Trevor Lawrence threw for a career-high 308 yards, Travis Etienne rushed for three touchdowns and No. 3 Clemson turned an expected Atlantic Coast Conference showdown with No. 16 North Carolina State into 41-7 rout Saturday.
The Tigers (7-0, 4-0 opened with seven straight wins for the third time in four seasons in topping the Wolfpack (5-1, 2-1) for the seventh consecutive season.
It was the ACC’s first matchup of undefeated teams this deep in a season since 2013, a game that also took place in Death Valley. But unlike five years ago when the 6-0 Tigers were pummeled by eventual national champ Florida State 51-14, it was Clemson who took control early and never gave the Wolfpack a chance to rally.
North Carolina State quarterback Ryan Finley came in leading the ACC at more than 324 yards passing a game. He managed just 156 yards passing with two interceptions and a fumble.
The Wolfpack avoided their first shutout in four years on Reggie Gallaspy’s 9-yard TD run to start the fourth quarter. Still, it was their fewest points scored since that 41-0 loss to the Tigers in 2014.
Clemson quickly took the steam out of this showdown with touchdowns on two of its first three possessions. Etienne had a 3-yard TD run to close the first one while Lawrence threw a 46-yard scoring pass to Tee Higgins to lead 14-0.
The Wolfpack seemed to stabilize themselves and drove into Clemson territory looking for points when Ryan Finley bobbled a shotgun snap and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence pounced on it. Etienne closed that series, too, with a 2-yard touchdown run.
Clemson piled on right before the half ended when on safety K’Von Wallace’s interception and 46-yard return to the Wolfpack 4 and led to Greg Huegel’s 28-yard field goal for a 24-0 lead at the half.
Etienne’s third-quarter touchdown run gave him an ACC-leading 14 this season.
Lawrence, the 6-foot-6 freshman whose rise led last year’s starter Kelly Bryant to transfer, looked smooth and polished in his third career start. He completed 26 of 39 passes and his long TD throw.
The Wolfpack came in averaging 480 yards of offence a game, but were held to 297.
North Carolina State: The Wolfpack kept the last two games with Clemson within a touchdown because of the talent they sent to the NFL last year, particularly defensive end Bradley Chubb. This group is not yet ready to match Clemson’s firepower.
Clemson: The Tigers’ road to a fourth straight ACC title game seems well paved and smooth with few speed bumps to negotiate. The trickiest game might be at Boston College on Nov. 10.
North Carolina State closes a two-game road swing at Syracuse next Saturday
Clemson heads to Florida State on Saturday.