RALEIGH – With his eyes fixed solely on the endzone, N.C. State receiver Bryan Underwood wasn’t worried about his feet.
He didn’t think he was that close to the Wolfpack’s sideline, and he had blocks to set up.
Underwood made it all the way across the goal line in the third quarter Thursday before he realized that he had been ruled down 47 yards earlier.
Underwood might not have had the best view, but his coach knew he was not out of bounds.
“It was right in front of me,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said, “He didn’t go out of bounds. Unfortunately, they blew it dead so they couldn’t review it. It’s just an unfortunate deal.”
Underwood’s 36-yard run was just one of many missed opportunities – by the officials and N.C. State – that eventually resulted in the Wolfpack’s 26-14 loss to No. 3 Clemson.
The loss snapped the Wolfpack’s three-game home winning streak against top-10 teams.
“It hurts, but things happen in games,” Underwood said. “You have to bounce back from them, good or bad.”
On Clemson’s first drive, N.C. State (2-1) stopped the Tigers on third down.
Only like Underwood’s late realization, N.C. State soon discovered Clemson (3-0) had called a timeout before the snap. The drive continued and led to Clemson’s first field goal from Chandler Catanzaro, who became the Tigers’ alltime leading scorer.
On N.C. State’s first possession, another long run by Underwood was called back. He didn’t score on the play, and replay showed that he did in fact step out of bounds. N.C. State had to punt.
Wolfpack cornerback Juston Burris, who was injured later in the game, stepped in front of a pass by Clemson quarterback Tahj Boyd and returned it for six points later in the first quarter. But like the sack before it and Underwood’s long run soon to follow, N.C. State soon realize it had been unintentionally victimized again.
Clemson had called another pre-snap timeout.
“It was really a night of little setbacks here and there that killed some drives,” said Doeren, who lost his first game as a head coach after 14 victories.
Unable to build any early momentum thanks to a few key plays the stalled the Wolfpack’s drives, N.C. State was unable to take advantage of a slow start from Clemson, which led by just six points at halftime.
“We are glad to get that one over with,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “We can’t load up the buses soon enough.”
The feeling of escape likely was heightened by Swinney’s last visit to Carter-Finley Stadium. Two years ago with national championship hopes, the Tigers drove home with a loss.
Last year, then-No. 3 Florida State suffered the same fate.
This year, Boyd wasn’t about to allow N.C. State to ruin his championship dreams again. Boyd threw three touchdowns, a pair in the second half, and moved into second place alltime in ACC passing touchdowns. He trails only Philip Rivers (95).
But Underwood’s touchdown that wasn’t changed everything. What would have been a one-point game became two quick scores by Clemson.
N.C. State never recovered.