CHAPEL HILL, NC - You knew it was coming sooner or later.
The Defending Champs would have an off game and be tested by someone. It was
just a matter of who. It happened twice last year, at Texas A&M and against
Syracuse, and the Tigers were able to come through those games to dominate the
rest of the competition, including Notre Dame and Alabama. Much like the Texas
A&M game last year, it would come down to a 2-point conversion, and the
Tigers' defense was once again able to get the stop they had to have. The Tar
Heels ran a bootleg right with true freshman quarterback Sam Howell, but Xavier
Thomas and James Skalski were able to string it out to the sideline short of
the goal line. The Tigers are an astounding 25-4 in their last 29 one-score games, which is by far the best in the nation. That is the mark of a true champion, and it's why the Tigers have won a school-record 20 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation. Mack Brown is the 10th National Champion head coach that Dabo has beaten in his 11-year tenure.
The Heels came out of the gates swinging with a
well-scripted opening possession, and Sam Howell found Dyami Brown on a go
route to take a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game. A.J. Terrell was
beat on the route, and that rarely happens. The Tigers’ offense simply could
not get out of its own way all day long, making two mistakes for every good
play it made. They had four false starts in the second half alone, a big drop
by Justyn Ross, a missed TD pass by Trevor Lawrence, a trip by Cornell Powell
and a fumble by Etienne that led to the Heels’ second touchdown. And that’s not
even an exhaustive list of the miscues by the offense. Fortunately for the
Tigers, the defense was ready to carry the load after that early UNC touchdown.
For two and a half quarters, the Tigers shut the Heels out despite several
three-and-outs by the offense, and that allowed them to finally take their
first lead on a 38-yard touchdown pass to Higgins with under 10 minutes left.
Higgins was one of the few offensive players to play a great game. He had 6
catches for 129 yards and the game-winning touchdown. A few of his catches were
big 3rd down conversions that led to touchdowns.
Trevor Lawrence was 18-30 for 206 yards with one touchdown
and no interceptions. He also ran for 45 yards and his fourth rush TD of the season.
Many outsiders will likely look at those numbers and say Trevor underperformed,
but they would be wrong. UNC played a lot of press-man coverage to force the
Tigers to run, which limited the passing game. There was also a drop by Ross for
at least 25 yards, and Powell was tripped by the turf monster with at least 40
yards in front of him and maybe a touchdown. Trevor did miss on a TD pass to
Ross on a post route, though, and that’s a throw he usually puts on the money.
However, Trevor made some sensational throws and plays as well under duress on
the road in a tight game. The scramble he made, running to his left and finding
Tee Higgins for a 3rd down conversion, was a thing of beauty. He
also made a fantastic read on a tuck and run up the middle for a 16-yard
first-down run. He probably would not have made either of those plays last
year, and it shows where he has improved as a quarterback.
The biggest disappointment was probably the play of the
offensive line. They had 3 false starts in the second half, and 2 of them were
by All-America candidate John Simpson. They allowed the fourth sack of the
season, and Trevor was under pressure several other times. They also struggled at
times in the run game, although Etienne and Dixon only had 18 combined carries.
In the final analysis, it wasn’t pretty, but it goes in the
books as a win, just like the blowouts in the first four weeks. In my opinion,
it’s better to win a game or two like this than to blow everyone out. Alabama
won all 12 of its regular season games by 20 points or more last year, and look
what the Tigers did to them in the National Championship. This will make the
Tigers much better than a win by 30, and Dabo knows it. Every great team has a
game or two where they make mistakes on the road. The difference is that when
Ohio State does it, they lose by 30 at Iowa or Purdue. When the Tigers do it,
they find a way to win. Sure, the talking heads on television will criticize
and question whether Clemson is the best team in the country right now, but let
them. They will be proven wrong at the end of the season just like they were
last year. The Tigers’ first bye of the season comes at a perfect time. They
will regroup, and the coaches will work them hard after all the mistakes they
made. You can expect them to come back better than ever when they host the
Seminoles in a couple weeks!
The game was a matchup of two of the five active head coaches with FBS national championships to their credit. With the victory, Head Coach Dabo Swinney now has at least one career win against every active national championship head coach (Mack Brown, Jimbo Fisher, Les Miles and Nick Saban), including wins against Brown, Fisher and Saban in Clemson’s last six games.
With the victory, Clemson improved to 25-4 in one-possession contests since 2011. It marked Clemson’s first game within 14 points in 364 days, dating to a 27-23 win against Syracuse on Sept. 29, 2018. Clemson’s .862 winning percentage in one-possession games since 2011 is the highest in the FBS in that time span.
The game was Clemson’s first one-point victory since the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl, a 25-24 victory against LSU.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed 18-of-30 passes for 206 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He also recorded career highs in rush attempts (11), rushing yards (45) and recorded a three-yard touchdown run.
Lawrence’s 11 rushing attempts exceeded his previous career high of nine at Boston College in 2018, and his 45 rushing yards exceeded his previous career high of 42, set twice including this season at Syracuse.
On his ninth completion of the game, a 28-yard pass to Tee Higgins, Lawrence passed Rodney Williams (333) for eighth on Clemson's all-time pass completions leaderboard.
During the game, Lawrence (4,411) passed Steve Fuller (4,359) for ninth-most career passing yards in school history.
With 251 yards of total offense in the game,Lawrence (4,688) passed Homer Jordan (4,614) to enter the Top 10 in career total offense in school history.
Clemson scored its first points of the game on a 13-yard touchdown run by running back Travis Etienne.
On that run, Etienne (264) passed kicker Chris Gardocki (261 from 1988-90) for ninth on Clemson's all-time scoring list. Etienne already ranks fourth on the list among non-kickers.
The rushing touchdown was also the 42nd of Etienne’s career, pushing him past Travis Zachery (41 from 1999-2001) for sole possession of the second-most career rushing touchdowns in school history.
Lawrence added Clemson’s second touchdown of the day on a three-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the first half. It was his fourth rushing touchdown of the season, adding to his single-season career high.
Wide receiver Tee Higgins recorded game highs with six receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown.
The 100-yard receiving game was Higgins’second of the season and sixth of his career.
Higgins gave Clemson its first lead of the game on a 38-yard pass from Lawrence with 9:54 remaining in the game.
The touchdown reception was Higgins’ 17th of his career, tying Perry Tuttle (17 from 1978-81) for ninth on the school's all-time leaderboard for career receiving touchdowns.
On the touchdown pass to Higgins, Lawrence tied Nealon Greene (43) for 10th on Clemson's all-time leaderboard for total touchdown responsibility.
Higgins’ 129 receiving yards are tied for the fourth-most by a Clemson player against North Carolina all-time, matching Phil Rogers’ 129 yards against the Tar Heels on Nov. 6, 1965.
Defensive tackle Jordan Williams recorded his first sack of the season, dropping North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell for a seven-yard loss in the second quarter. It was his first sack since Oct. 27, 2018, at Florida State.
Linebacker Isaiah Simmons added his third sack of the season in the third quarter. One play later, defensive tackle Tyler Davis pushed his season sack total to 2.5.
Clemson recorded multiple sacks for a 13th consecutive game for the first time since the 2012-13 seasons. It marks Clemson's fifth multi-sack streak of 13 games or more since 1980 (18 from 1991-92, 17 from 1998-99, 15 from 2012-13, 14 from 2000-01).
The multi-sack game was Clemson’s nation-leading 18th since the start of the 2018 season.
Clemson finished the contest with nine tackles for loss. Clemson has recorded 32 tackles for loss in three ACC contests this season. Entering the contest, Clemson had 23 tackles for loss in conference play, seven more than any other FBS program against conference opponents.
The game snapped Clemson’s 14-game streak of winning by 14 points or more. The streak ends tied with the 2012-13 Florida State Seminoles and 1955-56 Oklahoma Sooners as the third-longest such streak in the AP Poll era (since 1936).
Clemson was held without a takeaway for the first time since Nov. 17, 2018. It also snapped a streak of eight consecutive games with an interception, tied for Clemson’s fourth-longest streak since 2000.
Clemson allowed first-quarter points for the first time this season on an opening drive touchdown by North Carolina. Clemson entered the game with a 45-0 advantage in the first quarter this season.
The game was tied, 14-14, at halftime. It had been 45 games since Clemson was tied at the half, dating to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game that concluded the 2015 season when Clemson and Alabama were tied, 14-14, after two quarters. Clemson is now 6-2 under Head Coach Dabo Swinney when entering halftime tied.
Clemson entered the game 38-1 since 2015 when outscoring teams in the “middle eight,” defined as the final four minutes of the first half and the opening four minutes of the second half, and outscored North Carolina, 7-0, in that window in this contest. Clemson now has a 28-10 edge in “middle eight” points in 2019 after producing a 132-10 edge in that category in 2018.
Clemson has now rushed for multiple touchdowns in six consecutive games for the first time since a nine-game streak to open the 2018 season.
The game was Clemson’s first in Chapel Hill since 2010 and only its second since Head Coach Dabo Swinney's arrival in Clemson as an assistant in 2003.
Official kickoff temperature was 91 degrees, representing the third-hottest road game in Clemson history, trailing a 2004 contest at Texas A&M (95°) and a 2010 game at Auburn (93°).
Captains for the contest were offensive lineman Tremayne Anchrum, safety Tanner Muse, offensive lineman Sean Pollard and cornerback A.J. Terrell.
WITH THE WIN…
Clemson won its 20th consecutive game, dating to the start of the 2018 season, extending the longest winning streak in school history and second-longest winning streak in ACC history.
Clemson improved to 13-2 all-time in games as the AP No. 1-ranked team. Fourteen of Clemson's 15 games played at No. 1 all-time entering Saturday have come during the Dabo Swinney era.
Clemson pushed its streak of consecutive victories in ACC interdivisional matchups to nine games, dating back to the 2016 ACC Championship Game.
Clemson improved to 27-8 against ACC Coastal Division opponents, including postseason play, under Head Coach Dabo Swinney. Clemson has now won 13 of its last 14 games against the Coastal Division since 2015.
Clemson pushed its all-time record against North Carolina to 38-19-1.
Clemson earned its first win in Chapel Hill since Tommy Bowden's Tigers earned a 42-12 road win against the Tar Heels on Nov. 9, 2002.
Clemson won its fourth-straight game against North Carolina, dating back to 2011. Clemson is now 7-1 in its last seven meetings against UNC since 2002. Clemson matched the second-longest winning streak against UNC in program history (four from 1981-84), trailing only a seven-game winning streak against the Tar Heels from 1986-92.
Clemson won its ninth straight true road game. Clemson is in the midst of its second road winning streak of nine games or more all-time, including the school-record 12-game streak from 2015-17.
Clemson earned its 21st victory in its last 22 true road games.
Clemson collected its 34th victory in its last 37 games away from home.
Clemson won a 14th consecutive ACC regular season game for the third time in school history (20 from 1981-84, 14 from 2015-16). It was Clemson's 16th straight victory against ACC opponents, including postseason play.
Head Coach Dabo Swinney won his 121st career game as a head coach, matching the career total of College Football Hall of Famer and Clemson legend Danny Ford, who won 96 games at Clemson and 25 games at Arkansas.
Clemson pushed its winning streak in Saturday games to 34 to extend the longest Saturday winning streak in school history. Clemson's current run of consecutive Saturday victories is the longest active streak in the country.
Clemson won its 22nd consecutive game in the month of September, dating back to 2014. The current streak is already the longest in school history.
Clemson has now won 63 of its last 67 games overall dating to 2014.
Clemson has now won 37 of its last 39 games against ACC teams.
Clemson has now won 21 of its last 22 games away from home against ACC teams.
Clemson has now won 21 of its last 22 road games.
Clemson has now won 34 of its last 37 games away from home.
Clemson has now won 66 of its last 68 games against unranked teams.
Clemson has won 73 straight games when holding teams under 23 points (dates to 2010).
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