Clemson Football

Heard in the Press Box: No. 1 Clemson 21, North Carolina 20

October 1, 2019

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Clemson was outplayed and outcoached by Mack Brown’s North Carolina Tar Heels, but when they needed it, the Tigers denied Sam Howell on a two-point conversion attempt to escape Chapel Hill with a 21-20 win.

Heard in the Press Box: 


"They better be worried about winning the game.” - A conversation about how the media would take Clemson’s play against UNC.

“He’s having his best day of the year.” - said about Clemson punter Will Spiers who averaged 45.8 yards per punt against the Tar Heels.

“I hate the way that game ended. So anticlimactic." - Tar Heel fan leaving the stadium.

Rumbled: Tee Higgins had a monster performance for the Tigers hauling in six receptions for 129 yards and one touchdown. Even while Clemson was out to a slow start, it was Higgins that continued to stand out during a relatively stagnant performance.

Stumbled:  Clemson's first-quarter was something to forget. After waiting nine years to avenge a 21-16 loss in Kenan Stadium, Dabo Swinney’s squad limped out of the gates. The Tigers offense managed just 64 yards in the first frame and for the first time this season, Brent Venables’ defense was playing on their heels. 

The Tigers also missed a field goal that would loom large late and had a live ball kick-off of Andrew Booth on a punt return that fortunately bounced out of bounds or perhaps the Tar Heels do more damage early.

Turning point: The Tigers started backed up at their own 11-yard line as the first quarter was coming to a close. Clemson maneuvered 89 yards in just 4:16 seconds aided by Lawrence finding Justyn Ross on a 31-yard slant route, putting Clemson inside the 10-yard line. Two plays later, Travis Etienne scored from 13 yards out bringing the score to 7-7.

The Tar Heels didn’t go away after that, taking a 14-7 lead, but after Lawrence tied things with seconds left in the first half keeping things tied.

With just over 12 minutes left in the game, North Carolina faced a third-and-one near midfield. The Tigers stuffed the Tar Heels on back-to-back plays giving the offense the football in a 14-14 game.

Lawrence’s legs were a huge part of the game-winning drive, but it was his arm that delivered the lead. Facing a third-and-3, Tee Higgins broke open behind the defense and Lawrence found him for a 38-yard touchdown, giving Clemson a 21-14 lead.

Unsung hero: There really wasn’t much to choose from if we talk about on the field play. However, you have to give credit to Clemson’s fans for showing up and making Kenan Stadium nearly 50/50 between the Tigers and Tar Heels. 

The stadium wasn’t “loud,” but the Tigers had their fair share of false start penalties. One can only imagine what it could have looked like if North Carolina held an 85/15 or 80/20 split on the crowd.

Kudos to the Tiger fans who made their way up to Chapel Hill. They played a huge part in Clemson squeaking past North Carolina on Saturday.

Key stat: Travis Etienne didn’t have the best day when it came to pass protection as North Carolina mixed up their looks and gave him fits all afternoon. The junior running back stood in the pocket and attempted to deliver key blocks to provide Lawrence with a split second longer to see downfield. 

There were several times that Etienne whiffed, but he also had some really nice blocks as well. What’s more frustrating, we would opine, is his lack of touches in the running game.

Etienne got 14 carries for just 67 yards and a score in the game. In our estimation, he’s a 23-28 carry back at a minimum. He rushed the ball just three times after the half and took his last carry in the third quarter. 

On top of that, even if you assume something was amiss with Etienne, Lyn-J Dixon, a more than capable backup had just four carries on the day. 

Rarely are we critical of the playcalling, and perhaps it came down to UNC’s scheme, but this was a real head-scratcher from Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott when it came to the running game.


Scoring Summary: 


Brown, D 40 yd PASS from Howell, S PAT KICK by Ruggles, N (GOOD) UNC, 7 CLEMSON, 0


Etienne 13 yd RUSH PAT KICK by Potter (GOOD) UNC, 7 CLEMSON, 7

Corrales, B 10 yd PASS from Howell, S PAT KICK by Ruggles, N (GOOD) UNC, 14 CLEMSON, 7

Lawrence 3 yd RUSH PAT KICK by Potter (GOOD) UNC, 14 CLEMSON, 14

Third-quarter: No scoring


Higgins 38 yd PASS from Lawrence PAT KICK by POTTER (GOOD) CLEMSON, 21 UNC, 14

Williams, J 1 yd RUSH PAT RUSH by Howell, S (2-PT CONV FAILED) CLEMSON, 21 UNC, 20

Follow us on Twitter for more on Clemson's win over UNC: @ClemsonSports

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Heard in the Press Box: No. 1 Clemson 21, North Carolina 20

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