EditorsNote: Changed time of TD scored in 2nd graf
Top-ranked Clemson needed a late defensive stop on North Carolina’s two-point conversion attempt to hold on for a 21-20 victory Saturday at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.
North Carolina’s Javonte Williams ran in from the 1-yard line with 1:17 remaining, but the two-point conversion play on quarterback Sam Howell’s rushing attempt was thwarted.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence connected with Tee Higgins for a 38-yard scoring pass with 9:54 remaining for a tie-breaking score. The Tigers didn’t regain the ball until recovering an onside kick after the Tar Heels scored.
Trailing 21-14, North Carolina (2-3, 1-1 ACC) took its next possession and moved into Clemson territory, aided by a fourth-down conversion with less than six minutes to play.
Then came another fourth-down pick-up followed by Williams’ 22-yard run to the Clemson 3 before the touchdown play. Coach Mack Brown, in his first season back on the Tar Heels sideline, gambled with the two-point play as he looked for a signature victory.
Clemson (5-0, 3-0) boosted its school-record winning streak to 20 games, but this shaped up as the biggest scare in quite some time — and certainly the closest call this season.
Lawrence was 18-for-30 for 206 yards. Higgins racked up 129 receiving yards on six catches.
Howell finished 15-for-27 for 144 yards and two touchdown throws.
More than 50 minutes of game time elapsed before Clemson took its first lead.
Neither team scored in the third quarter and then Clemson’s defense came up with a fourth-down stop with 12:34 left in the fourth quarter at the Tigers 45-yard line. Lawrence then marched his team 55 yards for what would be the game-winning touchdown.
Earlier, running back Travis Etienne’s 13-yard run gave Clemson its first points in the second quarter.
After a Clemson turnover, North Carolina regained the lead on Howell’s 10-yard pass to Beau Corrales.
Clemson pulled even with 33 seconds to play in the first half on Lawrence’s 3-yard run.
On the game’s first possession, Howell threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Dyami Brown to open the scoring, taking the Tar Heels just four plays to score.
Clemson had trailed for a total of less than 3 1/2 minutes all season before playing from behind for more than 22 minutes in the first half Saturday.
There had never been a consensus reigning national champion to visit Chapel Hill.
Clemson and North Carolina hadn’t met since the Tigers won the 2015 ACC championship game. This was Clemson’s first game in Chapel Hill since 2010.
North Carolina lost a week earlier at home to Appalachian State.
—Field Level Media