Clemson, S.C. — Trevor Lawrence came in wanting to leave little doubt about No. 3 Clemson’s championship goals this season and about his ability to take the Tigers there.
He accomplished both Saturday in a 41-7 rout of No. 16 North Carolina State, helping Clemson dominate the showdown between the Atlantic Coast Conference’s last remaining undefeated teams.
“We just didn’t want to leave any doubt that the game should’ve went a certain way,” Lawrence said. “It was clear how we won the game by a good bit.”
And it was clear Lawrence, the strong-armed, long-haired freshman, has the goods to keep the Tigers out front.
He passed for a career best 308 yards including a 46-yard TD throw to Tee Higgins in his third college start. He directed three first-half drives of 50-plus yards as the Tigers took quick control of an expected tight contest.
Travis Etienne ran for three touchdowns, increasing his ACC-leading total to 14 on the ground this season.
Etienne said Clemson has adjusted well to Lawrence’s leadership since he took over as starting quarterback. “Trevor is out there doing what he does,” Etienne said. “We know what he can do and we’re excited about it.”
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 ra
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.
“We just never really got into a rhythm,” Finley said. “That hurt because we’re a rhythm offense. We going to get right and we’re going to bounce back. I’m confident in our guys.”
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.
Lawrence, 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.
“I felt really good out there,” he said. “This was good for me.”
The Wolfpack came in averaging 480 yards of offense a game, but were held to 297.
More top 25
No. 1 Alabama 58, (at) Tennessee 21: Tua Tagovailoa threw touchdown passes to four receivers and Alabama started fast again.
Alabama had touchdowns on its first four possessions while outscoring Tennessee 28-0 and outgaining the Volunteers 217-6 in the opening period. Alabama has outscored opponents 165-31, and Tennessee has been outscored 69-16 in first quarters this season.
Tagovailoa went 19 of 29 for 306 yards before leaving midway through the third quarter with Alabama ahead 51-14. He took a big hit on his final play of the day, a 51-yard touchdown pass to Henry Ruggs III.
Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) beat Tennessee (3-4, 1-3) for the 12th straight year and had the highest points total either team has ever recorded in the 101-game history of the series. Alabama is scoring 54.1 points per game.
Tennessee quarterback Keller Chryst went 9 of 15 for 164 yards with two touchdown passes after replacing injured starter Jarrett Guarantano in the second quarter.
(At) No. 5 LSU 19, No. 22 Mississippi State 3: Michael Divinity Jr.’s interception set up Nick Brossette’s short touchdown run, Cole Tracy kicked four field goals, and LSU beat Mississippi State.
Still, the Tiger Stadium crowd left angry after LSU’s top linebacker, Devin White, was ejected for targeting in the fourth quarter, meaning he will not be eligible to play in the first half of the Tigers’ upcoming showdown with unbeaten and top-ranked Alabama.
White appeared to lower his head as he leveled quarterback Nick Fitzgerald a moment after he released a pass that was intercepted by defensive back Kristian Fulton. The targeting penalty wiped out the turnover, and LSU’s celebrations also drew two flags for unsportsmanlike conduct, resulting in 45 yards in penalties on one play. Safety John Battle’s interception prevented Mississippi State (4-3, 1-3) from scoring on the drive and virtually sealed the result
Safety Grant Delpit came through with several drive-stalling plays for the Tigers (7-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference), including two interceptions and a fourth-down sack.
No. 9 Oklahoma 52, (at) TCU 27: Kyler Murray threw four touchdown passes, Kennedy Brooks and Trey Sermon had 100-yard rushing games with scores and Oklahoma rebounded from its only loss this season to beat TCU for the third time in 11 months.
The Sooners (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) won their 18th consecutive true road game, never trailing after scoring touchdowns on each of their first four drives in their first game since losing to Texas two weeks ago.
Brooks ran for 168 yards on 18 carries with an early 21-yard TD. Sermon ran 17 times for 110 yards and scored twice before walking gingerly off the field after being tended to by trainers with about 8 1/2 minutes left. This was a rematch of the Big 12 Conference championship game last December, when Oklahoma won three weeks after beating TCU (3-4, 1-3) in the regular season.
No. 10 UCF 37, (at) East Carolina 10: Darriel Mack Jr. stepped in for Heisman Trophy hopeful McKenzie Milton and rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown, and UCF forced five turnovers en route to its 20th straight victory.
Nate Evans returned a fumble 94 yards for a momentum-changing touchdown with 10:07 left, Greg McCrae added a 74-yard TD run and the Knights (7-0, 4-0 American Athletic) turned all those takeaways into 24 points. UCF – which was outgained 496-427 — went up 20-3 by scoring on four consecutive possessions in the second quarter, then made it a full-fledged rout with those late big plays.
Receiver Quadry Jones threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Adrian Killins on a trick play, and Matthew Wright kicked three field goals for the Knights.
With Milton sitting this one out while in full uniform from the sideline, Mack was 12 of 20 for 69 yards but was more dangerous with his legs, rushing 7 yards for an early touchdown.
The Pirates (2-5, 0-4) have lost three straight and four of five.
(At) No. 25 Washington State 34, No. 12 Oregon 20: Gardner Minshew threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Dezmon Patmon in the back of the end zone with 3:40 left and Washington State beat Oregon.
The Cougars (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) capped one of the biggest days in program history by taking control of the North Division race. Washington State hosted ESPN’s “College Gameday” and later celebrated its fourth straight victory over Oregon (6-1, 3-1).
Minshew was 39 of 51 for 323 yards and four touchdowns.
Down 27-0 at the half, Oregon pulled to 27-20 on Adam Stack’s 23-yard field goal with 6:38 left. The Cougars got a huge play on the next drive from Travell Harris when he stole a pass from Oregon’s Jevon Holland for a 37-yard gain into Oregon territory. Minshew then hit Harris for 11 yards to convert fourth-and-6 and, two plays later, Minshew hit Patmon for the touchdown that finally put away the Ducks.
(At) No. 14 Kentucky 14, Vanderbilt 7: Benny Snell Jr. rushed for 169 yards, including the go-ahead 7-yard run with 8:04 remaining that helped Kentucky pull away.
The Wildcats (6-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) clinched bowl eligibility for a third consecutive season and stayed in contention in the East division with their third straight victory over the Commodores (3-5, 0-4). But it took linebacker Kash Daniel’s fourth-down forced fumble that Quinton Bohanna recovered at the 20 midway through the fourth quarter to jump-start Kentucky from game-long inconsistency.
Snell took control from there, rushing 10 times for 74 yards on the drive that ended with his ninth TD run. The junior rushed 32 times for his 16th career 100-yard game on a blustery night that Kentucky had to work hard to outgain Vanderbilt 298-284.
(At) No. 15 Washington 27, Colorado 13: Jake Browning threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Fuller on fourth down with less than four minutes remaining, and Washington held off Colorado.
Rather than trying for a long field goal, Browning and the offense stayed on the field. Facing a blitz, Browning found Fuller on a quick slant with nothing but the end zone ahead.
Salvon Ahmed and Kamari Pleasant both scored on touchdown runs in the first half for the Huskies (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12). They played without starting running back Myles Gaskin due to a shoulder injury. Washington linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven had 15 tackles and an interception.
Steven Montez threw for 144 yards for Colorado (5-2, 2-2).
(At) Temple 24, No. 20 Cincinnati 17 (OT): Anthony Russo threw a tying 20-yard touchdown pass with 49 second left to Brandon Mack, and then a 25-yarder to Isaiah Wright in overtime for Temple.
Russo was 20 for 41 for 237 yards and three touchdowns for the Owls (5-3, 4-0 American). He led a seven-play, 75-yard drive in the closing minutes to tie it.
Cincinnati (6-1, 2-1) got a first down on its first play of overtime, but an errant snap behind quarterback Desmond Ridder left the Bearcats with second-and-21 and a personal foul pushed them even farther back. Ridder’s pass was intercepted by by Shaun Bradley on third-and-36 to end the game.
(At) No. 21 South Florida 38, UConn 30: Johnny Ford rushed for 164 yards and three touchdowns to help South Florida shrug off a slow start to remain unbeaten.
Ford scored on runs of 15, 15 and 43 yards. He also set up a second-half field goal with a 78-yard burst, helping the Bulls (7-0, 3-0 American Athletic) pull away from a 7-7 halftime tie and match the best start in school history.
Blake Barnett threw for one TD and ran for another for USF. Jordan Cronkite, the nation’s third-leading rusher at 151.4 yards per game, finished with 103 yards on 16 attempts for his school record-tying fifth consecutive 100-yard game.
Kevin Mensah rushed for 120 yards and two TDs for UConn (1-6, 0-4), which also got 197 yards and two touchdowns on the ground from quarterback David Pindell.