Clemson needed to thwart a 2-point conversion and withstand an onside kick to escape Chapel Hill 21-20, Saturday. The Tigers fell behind 7-0 in the game’s opening moments and fought uphill much of the afternoon. Clemson’s offense churned out only 331 yards and struggled to find its rhythm. The Tigers weren’t able to capture the lead until Trevor Lawrence hit Tee Higgins for a 38-yard touchdown with 9:54 left in the fourth quarter. In moments of need, Clemson called on quarterback Trevor Lawrence to run with the football. Lawrence finished the game with 45 yards rushing on 11 carries and his 3-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the 2nd quarter tied the game at 14. The 45 yards rushing and 11 attempts are both career highs for Lawrence. In the end, three touchdowns and a clutch stop from James Skalski and Xavier Thomas on a 2-point conversion was just enough for Clemson (5-0) to leave Chapel Hill a winner.
Here’s my POSTGAME RECAP from Chapel Hill
Key takeaways from Clemson’s victory
- The victory marks the 20th consecutive win for Clemson.
- Wide receiver Tee Higgins won his matchup consistently and finished the game with 6 catches for 129 yards and a 38-yard touchdown that put Clemson on top 21-14 in the fourth quarter.
- Clemson outgained North Carolina 331-290 but were outrushed 166-134 (after adjusted for sack yardage).
- Brent Venables’ defense came up with multiple key stops, including the game-deciding two-point conversion, but were unable to force a Tar Heels’ turnover.
- Safety Tanner Muse left the game and did not return. Coach Swinney indicated it was a hamstring injury and gave no update.
- Linebacker James Skalski left the game and had his neck examined but returned to help make the game’s biggest defensive play.
- Linebacker Isaiah Simmons continues to pace the defense. After picking up 10 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack this afternoon, Simmons continues to lead the Tigers in all three categories for the season (43 tackles, 6 TFL, 3 sacks).
- The game featured 12 punts, but neither team managed to return a single punt. They were all downed, fair caught or touched back. It’s nothing new for Clemson, as they have yet to surrender a punt return yard this season.
Dabo Swinney postgame press conference