ACC Football: Clemson 59, North Carolina 38
By Ryan Bisesi
CLEMSON — The rest of the ACC should take note. Death Valley is living up to its nickname again.
If there was still any question about the legitimacy of Clemson’s unbeaten record, it was squashed Saturday when a capable UNC team came to challenge the Tigers and left Memorial Stadium flustered.
Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins had nine catches for a career-best 157 yards in a 59-38 Clemson win against Carolina that was yet another dynamic display of what’s been the most electric offense in the ACC so far.
The Tigers’ offensive efforts were aided by a season-worst six UNC turnovers as the end zone invited just about anybody in an orange uniform. A 35-point third quarter saw the Tigers eclipse 50 points for the second-straight week and the Tar Heels dig themselves another hole they couldn’t escape.
It marked the second-straight game at Death Valley Carolina surrendered 50 or more points. The last time was in 2006, and the Heels wouldn’t mind waiting another five years to return.
“It was definitely tough watching that,” said UNC running back Giovani Bernard of the third quarter. “It was unfortunate things like that happen, but they’re definitely a good team.”
Clemson, who posted 56 on Maryland last week, solidified themselves as the team to beat in the ACC at 5-0 in the conference. Quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for 367 yards and five touchdowns. Boyd had a remarkable third quarter, running for one touchdown and throwing for three.
“Tajh was fantastic,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “To throw a touchdown pass to five different guys — that’s hard to do.”
The Tigers are 8-0 for just the fourth time in their history, which includes the 1981 national championship team that was honored at halftime. UNC dropped consecutive games for the first time this year.
“Six turnovers are really the bottom line,” UNC coach Everett Withers said. “It’s very disappointing. Obviously I haven’t done a good enough job of stressing that in practice. I have to go back and stress it even more.”
Even defensive end and Charlotte native Kourtnei Brown was included in the fun for the Tigers with two touchdowns, one on a fumble recovery and another on an interception. Brown grabbed a dump-off pass from Bryn Renner behind the line of scrimmage and ran 20 yards for a touchdown for a 24-10 edge. His scoop of Renner’s fumble and 26-yard run into the end zone capped the scoring for Clemson. The Victory Christian grad was the first Clemson defensive lineman to score two touchdowns in a game since 1954.
Boyd tied Clemson’s record for touchdown passes in a game and Sammy Watkins tied the ACC Freshman record with his ninth touchdown.
Hopkins juked Tre Boston inside the 5 and dove across the goal line for a 25-yard touchdown catch to hand Clemson a 10-3 lead late in the first quarter.
With a win, the Heels could have become bowl eligible. UNC did take the lead on a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jheranie Boyd at 7-3. Renner threw three interceptions and UNC fumbled it four times, losing possession on three.
Bernard, who didn’t start because of a hip injury, ended up with 47 yards rushing on 11 carries. Ryan Houston started and led UNC with 63 yards rushing.
After being replaced at kick returner earlier in the game, T.J. Thorpe had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter for the Heels to cut it to 38-24. It was just as a brief speed bump on the Tigers’ joy ride. After being sacked, Boyd found Watkins for a 42-yard toss into the end zone.
“We hope everybody responds like that when they get pulled,” Withers said.
Clemson broke a school record for scoring in 21 consecutive quarters when Martavis Bryant reeled in a 29-yard touchdown pass to give the Tigers the lead permanently at 17-10 in the second quarter.
“I’ve seen it all in coaching,” Withers said. “I thought we came out with a great mindset. We tried to play as hard as we could.”
It wasn’t enough.