By Gray Gardner.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – “I’m extremely embarrassed.” Those were Dabo Swinney’s first words of his post game press conference after a disappointing loss in Chapel Hill Saturday afternoon.
“I know I’m better than this and I’ll do what I can to fix it,” Swinney said. “Right now we’re just not a well coached football team, and that’s my fault.”
The Tigers desperately needed the win after losing two straight games to Auburn and Miami by a combined total of 12 points.
The Tigers fell behind early Saturday afternoon and failed in their attempts to fight back late in the game.
North Carolina forced a three and out on Clemson’s first offensive possession. The Tar Heels then proceeded to drive the ball with ease and scored the game’s first touchdown – a 4-yard run by running back Johnny White. The drive lasted 6 minutes and 11 seconds on 12 plays.
The Tigers and Tar Heels traded possessions back and forth on punts before Clemson finally put points on the board. They came in the form of a 48-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro.
Carolina responded two possessions later with a 10 play, 80-yard drive ending in a 9-yard touchdown pass from quarterback TJ Yates to wide receiver Jheranie Boyd.
The score remained 14-3 in North Carolina’s favor until late in the 3rd quarter when Clemson running back Jamie Harper broke free for a 10-yard score.
All hope the Tigers had at that point quickly turned into frustration as penalties plagued the Clemson defense. After Chandler Catanzaro’s missed 42-yard field goal, what seemed like a great defensive outing suddenly turned into a nightmare for the Tigers.
On a 3rd and 9 play in that next possession, North Carolina quarterback TJ Yates was intercepted by Marcus Gilchrist. However, the play was called back for defensive pass interference on defensive back Xavier Brewer. The penalty put the ball back in the Tar Heels’ hands, giving them a first down.
A few plays later, a defensive holding play moved the ball forward again for the Tar Heels. The Tiger defense held, however, forcing a 4th and 1 situation. North Carolina head coach Butch Davis opted to convert and was successful.
At that point in the game the Tar Heels were 3 for 3 on 4th down conversions. They were not done yet.
Later during the same possession, the Tigers forced North Carolina’s offense into a 4th down and 9 situation. Again the Tar Heels opted to try and convert but were sacked for a loss. However, an offsides penalty against Clemson moved the ball forward, making it 4th down with 4 yards to go.
The Heels decided to go for it again and were successful, setting up a 26-yard touchdown run for running back Johnny White.
Clemson finally answered on the ensuing drive with a big play. Quarterback Kyle Parker hit receiver Jaron Brown for a 76-yard touchdown pass, making the score 21-16 in favor of the Tar Heels.
The Tigers attempted the 2-point conversion in order to make it a field goal game. A North Carolina penalty gave the Tiger offense another second chance after Kyle Parker’s first pass fell incomplete. However, the Tigers were unable to convert.
The Tar Heels took nearly all the time off the clock in their next possession, running the ball right down the Tigers’ throats. Clemson used all 3 timeouts before finally forcing a punt, leaving the team with 13 seconds to try and score.
The game ended as Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker desperately attempted a Hail Mary pass down the sideline. The pass fell incomplete, along with Clemson’s hopes of going home with a win.
The Tigers now sit at 2-3 for the second consecutive year. The team’s 9 penalties for 81 yards were a high for Dabo Swinney since he has been Clemson Head Coach.
“It’s not a well-coached football team, not a disciplined team, not a smart team, and that’s one person’s fault,” Swinney said. “We’ll come back in Monday, and try to find a way to beat Maryland. That’s all I know to do.
“As long as we keep doing that and keep putting one foot forward and everybody rallies together, team and coaches, we’ll have a chance. Right now, we’re not a very good football team, and that’s my fault.”