NC State has been devoid of playmakers this season. But as Clemson coach Dabo Swinney pointed out earlier in the week, the Wolfpack’s cupboard isn’t totally bare.

He specifically mentioned two that he was most concerned with. Sixth-year senior linebacker Payton Wilson and true freshman wide receiver KC Concepcion. 

And both played significant roles in adding to the Tigers’ woes on Saturday.

Concepcion got his team going with a 50-yard run, then caught a 9-yard touchdown pass for the 1st score of the game. Wilson, the ACC’s leader in tackles, then got into the act by intercepting a pass and returning it 15 yards for a touchdown early in the 3rd quarter to catapult State (5-3, 2-2 ACC) to a 24-17 victory at Carter-Finley Stadium.

It was only the Wolfpack’s 2nd win in the last 11 renewals of the Textile Bowl. But it’s their 2nd straight win in Raleigh.

Clemson’s loss, meanwhile, is its 2nd straight and drops the Tigers to .500 on the season at 4-4 (3-3) ACC and puts it in danger of missing out on a bowl for the 1st time since 2004.

Here are 3 takeaways from the win that tied State coach Dave Doeren with Earle Edwards as the winningest coach in school history and gave him an even 100 victories for his career.

Complementary football

Sometimes the best offense is a good defense. And NC State’s is better than most in the ACC.

Saturday, the Wolfpack’s defense did everything it could to make things easier for an offense that has struggled to sustain drives all season and never got close to the end zone in its most recent game – a 24-3 loss at Duke 2 weeks ago.

In the 1st half, they gave quarterback MJ Morris and his unit a short field on which to work by creating a turnover at their 40-yard line. They did one better early in the 3rd quarter when Wilson intercepted a Cade Klubnik pass and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown.

Clemson outgained the Wolfpack 364-202 and gained only 64 yards on the ground – 50 of which came on Concepcion’s run that set up their 1st touchdown. But they committed only 2 penalties for 6 yards and outscored the Tigers 14-0 off turnovers to overcome a still-balky offense.

Clemson’s recurring nightmare

Turnovers and kicking issues. Nine weeks into the season, they’ve become more than just problems for Swinney and his Tigers. They’ve become their identity.

Both reared their ugly heads again Saturday in Raleigh. And the mistakes were costly.

The self-destruction began early when Klubnik overthrew tight end Jake Briningstool and was intercepted by safety Devan Boykin. Four plays later, the Wolfpack was in the end zone for a quick 7-0 lead. Clemson eventually recovered from that rough start and had a chance to tie the game going into halftime. But again, stumbled over its own feet when kicker Jonathan Weitz missed from 41 yards out.

That, however, was only the prelude to the most damaging momentum swing of the game. On the 1st play after a defensive stop, linebacker Devon Betty got his hand on a Klubnik pass that Wilson picked off and returned a touchdown.

After going 170 passing attempts without an interception, Klubnik now has 3 in the past 2 games. The turnovers also increased the Tigers’ season total to 15, including an FBS-leading 10 lost fumbles. Their kickers are just 6-of-12 on field goal attempts.

Not in Ship shape

Will Shipley’s parents both went to NC State and he was recruited heavily by the Wolfpack. He also has ties to Carter-Finley Stadium, where he helped his high school team win a state championship.

But neither Clemson’s rival nor its home field has been kind to the Charlotte native during his college career. In 2021, Shipley suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for several weeks. Saturday, he again left the game with an injury.

It happened at the end of an 11-yard run that nearly got him into the end zone. Just as he got to the goal line, Wolfpack cornerback Shyheim Battle stood him up. He suffered a back or neck injury as he twisted to try and score.

He lay on the field for several minutes as he was worked on by trainers before eventually leaving the field under his own power. But even though Swinney said the junior running back was “okay,” he never returned to the game – finishing with 21 yards on 6 carries.