First there was the loss at Auburn, a respectable defeat in overtime in which Clemson seemed to put a physical beating on the SEC Tigers. Then game the home loss to Miami in the ACC opener in which the Tigers were exposed as wide receiver and in the secondary. And now comes the defeat at North Carolina where again the Tigers saw a second half rally fall short when their defense couldn’t get the job done.
So, for the second season in a row, Clemson sits at 2-3 after five games, and Dabo Swinney is dealing with more questions than answers. To his credit last season, Swinney rallied his guys to win their division. He will try to do the same this season beginning with next Saturday’s game against Maryland in Death Valley.
The Tiger defense allowed just 255 yards, just 15 in the third quarter, and only 91 yards on the ground. But they committed too many crucial penalties. On North Carolina’s big scoring drive in the fourth quarter, Clemson corner Xavier Brewer was flagged for pass interference. Three plays later, the other corner, Byron Maxwell, was whistled for holding. And later in the drive on a fourth and nine play, Da’Quan Bowers was called for offsides wiping out a sack. The Tar Heels then converted the fourth down play (they were 4-4 on fourth down conversions).
The Clemson defense also couldn’t get the ball back in the final five minutes when the Tar Heels ate up all but the final thirteen seconds. And it was all done by the same player. Johnny White carried on 9 plays and caught a screen pass on the 10 play drive.
Clemson’s offense produced 305 yards. But on a day offensive coordinator Billy Napier was expected to dial up Andre Ellington a lot, he did not. Ellington carried just 12 times for 55 yards. Jamie Harper had just 27 yards on 11 carries including a 10 yard touchdown run.
Kyle Parker was a respectable 21 of 38 for 214 yards and a touchdown. He was finally able to connect with his wide outs. DeAndre Hopkins caught a career high 7 passes, and Jaron Brown caught 4 balls, including a 74 yard scoring strike. Tight end Dwayne Allen continued his fine season with 7 catches for 55 yards.