RALEIGH — Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley has made a career out of playing against North Carolina State.
Beasley, who has 13 career quarterback sacks, has six sacks against the Wolfpack over the past two seasons.
Beasely, a junior, turned in the defensive play of the game for the Tigers in the third quarter when he sacked Wolfpack quarterback Pete Thomas and forced a fumble that Clemson linebacker Spencer Shuey recovered. Five plays later, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd connected with Martavis Bryant for a 30-yard touchdown that gave the Tigers a 20-7 advantage.
“No question that was a huge play for us,” said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. “That play by Vic Beasley was huge. I thought that was the spark that really kind of got us going.”
Three plays prior to Beasley’s sack, N.C. State wide receiver Bryan Underwood appeared to score on an 83-yard jet sweep, but was ruled out of bounds at the Clemson 47.
Beasley had just two tackles coming into Thursday night’s game with the Wolfpack, but both were sacks against Georgia. Beasley has five sacks this season and has 13 sacks in his last 16 games.
“I knew someone needed to step up and make a play,” Beasley said. “We came out slow at first and picked things up and tried to pick things up in the second half. We needed some plays and we needed some big plays to get the momentum on our side.
“It’s about making plays out there. I don’t know what it is about (N.C. State), I think it’s because they like to pass the ball a lot and I consider myself a dominant pass rusher.”
In good company
Tahj Boyd’s three touchdown passes against the Wolfpack put the Clemson senior tied for second place on the ACC’s all-time passing touchdown list.
Boyd has 79 TD passes, which ties him for second with former Florida Chris Weinke, who had 79 TD passes from 1997-2000.
“I think when I look back on it, it’ll mean a lot,” Boyd said. “Right now I’m just concerned about winning football games.”
Ironically, Boyd, who came into the game with 76 career TD passes, passed Russell Wilson (76) with his 11-yard TD pass to Sam Cooper in the first quarter.
N.C. State’s Philip Rivers had 95 TD passes for the Wolfpack from 2000-03.
Clemson place kicker Chandler Cantanzaro isn’t perfect, but he’s close. Cantanzaro, who became the school’s all-time scoring leader Thursday night, has connected on 29 of his last 30 field-goal attempts.
Cantanzaro connected on two of two field-goal attempts — 45 and 49 yards — against the Wolfpack. Cantanzaro’s lone miss came on a 48-yard attempt last season against Wake Forest.
Over that stretch, Cantanzaro has connected on eight of nine attempts from more than 40 yards.
Cantanzaro became Clemson’s all-time leading scorer against the Wolfpack with 331 points, passing Aaron Hunt, who had 329 points from 2000-03.
“It’s not just my record, it’s everyone on the kicking team’s record, but it feels pretty cool,” Cantanzarro said.
Clemson back-up offensive tackle Isaiah Battle was ejected in the fourth quarter for punching N.C. State safety Jarvis Byrd after a play was over.
“That’s really, really disappointing,” Swinney said. “That’s not Clemson. That’s a lesson for everyone one of those guys in the locker room. I will say this, he took ownership and apologized in the locker room and that won’t happen again, I can assure you of that.”
Cooper’s knee just fine
The miraculous recovery of Clemson tight end Sam Cooper continued against N.C. State as the Brentwood, Tenn., native made his first reception of the season.
Cooper, who suffered a knee injury (torn ACL) during the Tigers’ spring game in April, caught an 11-yard TD pass from Tahj Boyd in the second quarter.
Cooper had surgery on his knee just 19 weeks ago and wasn’t expected to be ready to play this early in the season.
Saved by the whistle
The home crowd’s sound rose in cheers, then turned to boos when they realized a big play was stunted by Clemson’s thrifty use of timeouts.
In the first quarter, a sideline timeout prevented Clemson’s short 3rd-and-15 gain that would have brought on the punt team; after the timeout, receiver Sammy Watkins caught a ball for 16 yards and a first down.
The next instance was even bigger.
Boyd threw toward Bryant, and was intercepted by Juston Burris, who appeared to be headed easily for the end zone. But whistles were blown before the snap, thus denying the pick-six.
Shuffle the deck
After a dismal opening drive on which he allowed two sacks, right tackle Gifford Timothy was yanked in favor of sophomore Shaq Anthony.
When that didn’t work, sophomore Isaiah Battle went in at left tackle, moving Brandon Thomas to the right side. Kalon Davis also entered at left guard, and the first drive with Davis and Battle yielded Clemson’s first touchdown.
Williams catching on
Highly touted freshman wide receiver Mike Williams had his most significant catch of his young career against N.C. State.
Williams hauled in a 25-yard reception on a 3rd-and-4 play that gave the Tigers a first down and ended with a 45-yard Cantanzarro field goal.
Williams, who was the 27th-ranked high school wide receiver in the nation by Rivals.com a year ago, caught two passes for 18 yards last week against South Carolina State.
David Beasley injured
Clemson starting offensive guard David Beasley injured his ankle in the fourth quarter.