Death Valley, Clemson: Winners of three in a row and two victories over ranked opponents, including a 31-20 win over No. 20 North Carolina, Clemson’s seniors couldn’t have asked for a better ending to their time in Death Valley.
The Tigers (7-4 overall, 4-4 ACC) have now won six in a row over the Tar Heels (8-3, 4-3). Both teams eclipsed the 450-yard mark in total offense. Cade Klubnik completed 21-of-32 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown. Will Shipley carried the ball 18 times for 126 yards and a touchdown and added two catches for 53 yards. Troy Stellato had six catches for 50 yards.
Clemson forced two turnovers in the first quarter – a fumble forced by Demonte Capehart and recovered by TJ Parker on the seven-yard line. Later in the quarter, Nate Wiggins punched the ball out of the running back’s hands on the one, and the ball rolled out of the endzone for a touchback. The Tigers faked a punt, and it didn’t work for the second week in a row. Three plays after the Tar Heels snuffed out the play, Maye threw off his back foot to JJ Jones for a 33-yard touchdown and a 7-0 UNC lead.
Clemson cashed in the fumble caused by Wiggins with a 14-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a three- yard touchdown catch by Jake Briningstool to tie the game at 7-7. Klubnik called his own number with three seconds left in the half and barely broke the plane with the nose of the football for a 14-7 Clemson lead at intermission.
The running backs took over after halftime. Mafah took a direct snap on the three and plowed his way into the endzone. North Carolina’s Omarion Hampton raced 55 yards to pay dirt, and Shipley answered for Clemson with a 33-yard scoring scamper of his own for a 28-14 Clemson lead at the end of three quarters. Jonathan Weitz added a 21-yard field goal with 10:33 to play in the game to make it a 31-14 advantage, but North Carolina wasn’t finished. The Tar Heels marched 75 yards down the field in nine plays and took just over three minutes off the clock on a drive that ended as Hampton battled his way into the endzone to make it a 31-20 game with just over seven minutes to play.
Clemson travels to South Carolina for a 7:30 kick at Williams-Brice Stadium next Saturday.
Story by Nikki Hood