North Carolina State is off to the best start in school history. More importantly, the Wolfpack showed it is for real in the Bowl Championship Series race.

Freshman T.A. McLendon ran for a career-high 178 yards and two touchdowns as the 12th-ranked Wolfpack improved to 9-0 last night with a 38-6 victory over host Clemson.

North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers also ran for a touchdown and the Wolfpack defense, led by safety Terrence Holt, held Clemson (4-4, 2-3) to a season-low point total.

Holt had an interception, recovered a fumble and returned a blocked punt 39 yards for a touchdown as North Carolina State (4-0 ACC, tied for first place with Florida State) surpassed the 8-0 start of its 1967 team.

Coach Chuck Amato played linebacker on that squad, and now his team has a chance to do what he could not 35 years ago -- win a conference title and challenge for a national championship.

It will not be easy. North Carolina State closes with Georgia Tech, Virginia, Maryland and the Seminoles.

"We can't afford to look at the big picture and look past people. That's how you get beat," Holt said.

With wins over Division I-AA East Tennessee and Massachusetts, North Carolina State was one of the most overlooked unbeaten teams in the country. Surely, the thinking went, the Wolfpack would crack in prime time at Death Valley, where it had lost eight of its last 11 games.

* COLORADO STATE 37, BYU 10: Cecil Sapp ran for 164 yards and two touchdowns and the Rams converted two turnovers into 14 points to win at home.

With the win, Colorado State (7-2, 3-0 Mountain West) became eligible for one of the conference's four bowl berths.

BYU (3-5, 0-3), the defending conference champion, dropped its third straight game, during which the usually prolific Cougars have scored a total of 22 points.

The Rams atoned for last year's 56-34 loss, during which BYU generated 694 total yards.