CLEMSON, SC - What a game! It was the nation's No.3 offense going against the No.5 defense, and as I expected, the defense won out. Defense still wins championships! The Tigers' offense sputtered early, but the defense was tremendous, as they have been all season, and allowed the offense to get going at the end of the first half. Shipley and Mafah had another great game--especially Ship--combining for 210 yards with a touchdown each. Shipley did have another fumble in the red zone after making a great first down run, but he more than made up for it! The crowd was electric and had a big impact on the game, forcing 5 false starts and offsides.
The Tigers won the turnover margin for the third straight game and won all three. I've been saying all season, they would be undefeated if they at least broke even in the turnover margin every game. It's unsettling that they are still committing bad turnovers, but the defense has really stepped up and has forced more. The Tigers have won at least 6 home games for 13 straight years, the longest streak in the nation. Second longest streak is Coastal at 3 years. Clemson is the 4th program with 40 wins against AP ranked teams in the playoff era (Alabama, Ohio State, UGA). Tigers are 15-3 against AP ranked teams since 2011. UNC is the 7th program against whom the Tigers have won 40 games.
I'll have more analysis and photos in a bit. In the meantime, post-game interviews, highlights and notes are below!
WITH THE WIN...
Clemson improved to 40-19-1 against North Carolina all-time. North Carolina became the sixth program to be defeated by Clemson 40 times (South Carolina, 72, Wake Forest, 71; NC State, 60; Furman, 44; Virginia, 40).
Clemson earned its sixth consecutive victory against North Carolina, starting with a 59-38 victory in 2011. It represents Clemson’s third winning streak of at least six games in series history (six from 1958-63 and seven from 1986-92).
Clemson improved to 10-3 all-time against Mack Brown, including a 3-0 mark in Dabo Swinney’s tenure.
Swinney improved to 37-5 all-time against teams from the state of North Carolina.
Clemson finished its home slate with a 6-1 home record this season to extend its streak of winning at least six games at Memorial Stadium to 13 years. The next longest streak of six-plus home wins in the country entering 2023 was three years (Coastal Carolina).
Clemson posted a perfect homestand of three or more games for the 12th time in program history (1974, 1990, 1991, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2020). Note: Clemson also had undefeated homestands in 1982, 1983 and 1991 that included ties, and in 1987 and 2008, Clemson had homestands longer than three games in which the Tigers won at least three games in a row but did not win every game.
Clemson improved to 30-12 against AP Top 25 teams in the College Football Playoff era (since 2014). Clemson became only the fourth program to win 30 games against AP-ranked opponents in that span (Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia).
Clemson improved to 15-3 at home against AP Top 25 teams since 2011.
Clemson has posted at least one home win against an AP Top 25 team in 11 out of the last 13 seasons, including this year. That includes wins against No. 21 Auburn and No. 11 Florida State in 2011; No. 5 Georgia in 2013; No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 17 Florida State in 2015; No 3 Louisville in 2016; No. 13 Auburn in 2017; No. 16 NC State in 2018; No. 12 Texas A&M in 2019; No. 7 Miami (Fla.) in 2020; No. 13 Wake Forest in 2021; No. 10 NC State and No. 14 Syracuse in 2022; No. 12 Notre Dame and No. 22 North Carolina in 2023.
With home wins against No. 12 Notre Dame and No. 22 North Carolina this year, Clemson is riding a nine-year streak in which the Tigers have defeated at least one AP Top 25 team at Memorial Stadium, the nation's longest active streak of consecutive seasons with a ranked win at home.
This year, Clemson earned multiple home wins against AP Top 25 teams in a single season for the eighth time in program history (two each in 1991, 1993, 2003, 2005, 2011, 2015 and 2022).
Swinney earned his 39th all-time victory against AP Top 25 teams. Swinney's 38 wins against the AP Top 25 are the second-most of any coach — active or inactive — since 2009.
Clemson improved to 93-12 in regular season play since the start of the 2015 season. Ten of Clemson’s 12 regular season losses in that span have been decided by a final margin of 10 or fewer points.
Clemson improved to 65-3 at Death Valley in the College Football Playoff era. Clemson is tied with Alabama for the nation's best home record in that time frame.
Clemson improved to 61-1 when both passing and rushing for 200+ yards under Dabo Swinney. Overall, Clemson is 111-1-1 in program history when reaching those marks.
Clemson is now 80-3 when rushing for 200+ yards under Dabo Swinney.
Clemson is now 63-4 when having a 100-yard rusher since 2011.
Clemson now has a 129-8 record when totaling more first downs than its opponent since 2011.
Clemson now has a 76-4 record when winning the turnover margin since 2011.
Clemson has now won 24 of its last 27 November games.
Clemson has now won 113 of its last 118 games when leading at halftime.
Clemson is now 134-4 since 2011 when leading after three quarters.
North Carolina entered the week ranked eighth in the nation in points per game (39.9). By surrendering only 20 points, Clemson held the Tar Heels’ prolific offense to nearly half its season average.
The 20 points were North Carolina’s fewest this season and fewest since Clemson held the Tar Heels to 10 points in the 2022 ACC Championship Game.
Clemson held North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye to a 44.4 percent completion percentage (16-of-36), the lowest of his career.
Clemson also held Maye to a 96.8 pass efficiency rating, another career low. In two of Clemson’s last three games, the Tigers have held two of the ACC’s most prolific passers (Maye and Sam Hartman, formerly of Wake Forest now at Notre Dame) to career lows in pass efficiency rating.
Clemson has now held three consecutive opponents below a 50 percent completion percentage for the first time since 2020 against Miami (Fla.), Georgia Tech and Syracuse.
North Carolina entered the week sixth in the nation and first in the ACC in third down conversion percentage (51.7 percent). Clemson held North Carolina to 4-of-14 on third downs (28.6 percent).
Offensively, Clemson finished with 466 total yards and has now reached 400 yards in back-to-back games for the first time since the first two games of the season.
Clemson rushed for 247 yards, its fifth 200-yard rushing game of the season.
Clemson has rushed for 200 yards in back-to-back games twice this season and has now done so for the first time since the first two games of the season.
With 247 rushing yards and 219 passing yards, Clemson reached 200 yards in both categories for the fourth time this season and for the 62nd time in Dabo Swinney’s head coaching tenure.
Clemson has now reached 200 yards both rushing and passing in back-to-back games for the first time since the first two games of the season.
Clemson ran a season-high 89 plays and posted a season-long 38:11 time of possession.
Quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 21-of-32 passes for 219 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He also added 12 carries for 44 yards, four yards short of his single-game season high.
Klubnik scored his fourth rushing touchdown of the season — the sixth of his career — on a three-yard run in the second quarter.
With that touchdown late in the first half, Clemson outscored North Carolina 7-0 in the “Middle Eight,” defined as the final four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half. Clemson is now 68-2 since 2015 when outscoring opponents in the “Middle Eight.”
Klubnik’s touchdown came with three seconds remaining in the first half, giving Clemson a 14-7 halftime lead. It was Clemson’s 75th time taking a lead into halftime since 2017, a national-best.
Klubnik converted a third down on a career-long 22-yard run in the first quarter.
Running back Will Shipley rushed 18 times for 126 yards with a touchdown and added two receptions for a career-high-tying 53 receiving yards.
With his performance on Saturday, Shipley (2,638) passed Buddy Gore (2,571 from 1966-68) for 11th in Clemson history in career rushing yardage.
With a season-high 179 all-purpose yards in the game, Shipley (4,009) passed Wayne Gallman (3,902 from 2014-16) to enter the Top 10 on Clemson's all-time leaderboard for career all-purpose yards.
Shipley’s 179 all-purpose yards were his most in a game since his 242 all-purpose yards against Syracuse last year.
During the game, Shipley (4,009) became the 10th player in Clemson history to reach 4,000 career all-purpose yards.
Shipley scored on a 33-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
On the touchdown run,Shipley (33) passed Lester Brown (32 from 1976-79) for sole possession of the seventh-most career total touchdowns in Clemson history.
Shipley also tied Lester Brown (31 from 1976-79) for seventh on Clemson's all-time leaderboard for career rushing touchdowns.
Shipley became the 11th player in program history to rush for 100-plus yards in at least 10 career games, joining Travis Etienne (20), Wayne Gallman (17), Raymond Priester (15), James Davis (14), Andre Ellington (12), C.J. Spiller (12), Woodrow Dantzler (11), Kenny Flowers (11), Buddy Gore (11) and Terry Allen (10). Shipley moved into a tie with Allen for 10th.
Running back Phil Mafah rushed 23 times for 84 yards with a touchdown.
Mafah added to his single-season career high with his ninth touchdown of the season on a three-yard scoring run on fourth-and-goal in the third quarter.
Clemson has rushed for a touchdown in 53 consecutive home games, the nation's longest active streak. The last team to hold Clemson without a rushing touchdown in Death Valley was Troy in 2016.
Clemson has scored at least one rushing touchdown in a national-best 77 of its 80 games since the start of the 2018 season. Clemson has also rushed for multiple touchdowns in a national-best 64 games since 2018.
Tight end Jake Briningstool scored Clemson’s first points of the game on a three-yard pass from Klubnik in the second quarter.
Briningstool’s fifth touchdown reception of the season surpassed his four from 2022 to set a new single-season career high.
Briningstool became the seventh tight end in school history to record 10 career touchdown catches. He tied Bennie Cunningham (10 from 1972-75) for the sixth-most touchdown receptions by a tight end in school history.
Briningstool has now caught a touchdown in back-to-back games for the first time since early 2022 against Wake Forest and NC State.
On his third catch of the game, Briningstool (40) secured the first 40-catch campaign by a Clemson tight end since Jordan Leggett in 2016 (46).
Wide receiver Adam Randall recorded a team-high and career-high 57 receiving yards on two receptions. His previous career high in receiving yards was 51 at Miami (Fla.) earlier this season.
Wide receivers Troy Stellato and Tyler Brown tied for the team lead in receptions with six each.
Clemson did not allow a sack. The Tigers have won 40 consecutive games when not allowing a sack since 2011.
Clemson recorded three takeaways in the contest. Clemson is now 54-1 under Dabo Swinney when Clemson records three or more takeaways in a game.
Clemson has now recorded at least three takeaways in three consecutive games for the first time since 2020 against Miami (Fla.), Georgia Tech and Syracuse.
Clemson has now produced multiple takeaways in three straight games for the first time since a four-game streak in 2022.
With a 3-2 advantage in takeaways on Saturday, Clemson has now won the turnover margin in three consecutive games for the first time since 2020.
Clemson recorded a goal-line stand on North Carolina’s first possession, as defensive tackle Peter Woods forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive end T.J. Parker.
The forced fumble was the first of Woods’ career. The fumble recovery was the first of Parker’s career.
The opening-drive takeaway by Woods and Parker was Clemson’s second of the season on an opponent’s first possession and Clemson’s first on an opening drive since recording an interception on Florida Atlantic’s first possession on Sept. 16.
Clemson recorded its second takeaway of the game in the first quarter when cornerback Nate Wiggins saved a touchdown by forcing a fumble 63 yards downfield at the Clemson one-yard line for a touchback.
It was the second time this season Wiggins has chased down a ball carrier from behind to force a fumble at the Clemson one-yard line. Those plays account for both of Wiggins’ two career forced fumbles.
Wiggins helped seal the victory with an interception late in the fourth quarter.
The interception was the third of Wiggins’ career and his second all-time against North Carolina, joining his pick in last year’s ACC Championship Game. Both interceptions against North Carolina have come off of presumptive future first-round pick Drake Maye, as Wiggins now accounts for two of Maye’s 14 career interceptions.
Parker recorded his fifth sack of the season in the second quarter. It was his first sack since Oct. 7 against Wake Forest.
Parker (5.0) is now two sacks shy of tying the Clemson freshman record for sacks set by Michael Dean Perry (seven in 1984), Chester McGlockton (seven in 1989) and Dexter Lawrence (seven in 2016). Among the trio of current record holders, only Lawrence's performance came in a true freshman season; neither Perry nor McGlockton played in their first years on campus.
Parker entered the game tied for the national lead in tackles for loss by a freshman. With 9.5 tackles for loss this season, he is 2.5 tackles for loss shy of Myles Murphy's true freshman school record of 12 and more than halfway to the school record for any freshman (true or redshirt) set by Michael Dean Perry in 1984 (15).
Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. pushed his season sack total to 5.5 with a second-quarter sack that forced a North Carolina punt.
Trotter has now recorded a sack in three straight games for the first time since last season against Miami (Fla.), South Carolina and North Carolina.
Safety Khalil Barnes recorded his first career sack on a fourth-down stop in the third quarter.
Barnes became the first Clemson defensive back to record multiple forced fumbles, multiple interceptions and at least one sack in a single season since cornerback Bashaud Breeland in 2013.
Defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro recorded his career-high-tying fourth sack of the season in the fourth quarter.
Clemson has now recorded consecutive games with four or more sacks for the second time this season (at Syracuse and vs. Wake Forest).
Defensive tackle Tyler Davis (49) made his 50th career start to become the first defensive player in Clemson history to start 50 career games.
Davis joined P Will Spiers (69), OT Mitch Hyatt (57), PK B.T. Potter (54) and PK Chandler Catanzaro (52) as the only players in school history to start 50 career games.
Punter Aidan Swanson recorded three punts of 50 or more yards, matching his career high of three punts of 50-plus yards against South Carolina in 2022 and against Florida State this season.
The Clemson crowd of 81,305 helped force five North Carolina false starts, the most by an opponent at Death Valley this season.
Clemson finished its second of two three-game homestands this season, Clemson’s 35th homestand of three or more games in school history (1911, 1920, 1922, 1949, 1959, 1962, 1969, 1974, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 (2), 1993, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2020, 2022 and 2023 (2)).
All Clemson seniors were declared as captains for the contest. The team’s representatives for the coin toss were defensive tackle Tyler Davis, wide receiver Hamp Greene, defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro and offensive lineman Will Putnam.