North Carolina coach Tom O'Brien said there's a simple reason his Wolfpack lost 62-48 to No. 11 Clemson, despite gaining 597 yards and having a player set the record for most all-purpose yards.
"You get a little bit closer or slow them down once, but they had too much skill for us, I guess," O'Brien said.
Tobias Palmer set an Atlantic Coast Conference record with 496 all-purpose yards for the Wolfpack (6-5, 3-4 ACC). He had 277 yards on kickoff returns and caught seven passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns. Mike Glennon was 29-of-53 for 493 yards and five touchdowns. Four of N.C. State's touchdown drives took just one play.
But the Wolfpack couldn't stop Clemson (10-1, 7-1). Tajh Boyd accounted for eight touchdowns — five passing and three rushing — and the Tigers gained 754, just two away from the school record.
The Wolfpack led 24-13 early in the second quarter, but Clemson scored the next 42 points and N.C. State couldn't reel them back in. The 48 points were the most the Wolfpack have ever scored in a loss.
"It was a game of runs," O'Brien said. "We thought maybe we'd come back in the third quarter and get our run back again. We just didn't do it."
The teams combined for 1,351 yards and the 110 combined points were just seven off the ACC record set by Georgia Tech and North Carolina last week.
But with all the offense, the Tigers may have won the game thanks to its defense making plays at critical moments. They stopped the Wolfpack on fourth down twice deep in Clemson territory. They picked off Glennon in the end zone and forced a fumble that gave the Tigers one more scoring drive in the first half.
And Boyd was tough to stop. He threw two interceptions, but still went 30-for-44 for 426 yards and ran for 105 yards. The combined 531 yards set a school record.
The junior had a hand in every Clemson touchdown, throwing for TDs of 69, 62, 40, 27 and 7 yards and running for a 4-yard score and two 9-yard touchdowns. The eight touchdowns are an ACC record. He also has broken his own ACC record with 41 TDs so far this season.
"We couldn't get any pressure at all. We couldn't get to him," O'Brien said. "He's talented, there's no question about it.
With the win Clemson got a share of the ACC Atlantic Division title — thanks to N.C. State's upset of Florida State. But the Seminoles will go to the title game.
After the game, O'Brien praised Glennon, Palmer and the rest of the team for playing hard. Marion Carter caught seven passes for 105 yards and a score, while Shadrach Thornton ran 21 times for 114 yards and a touchdown for the Wolfpack.
O'Brien said they have to shake off being beaten by a better team because there is still one more game to go next week against Boston College.
"We have to put this one to bed," O'Brien said. "We have to go home, and we have to find a way to get our seventh win next week."