By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- This Saturday started off special, as the 1981 National Champion Tigers were honored at the Tigers’ game against the North Carolina Tar Heels. The afternoon ended with the Tigers whipping the Heels 59-38 thanks to two defensive touchdowns from Kourtnei Brown.
“I’m so proud of our guys. North Carolina is a really good team. We knew this was going to be a tough challenge for us. They have a lot of NFL-type guys on their team. We missed a lot of first half opportunities. Defensively, we didn’t do a great job defending the double move. But, this is a four quarter game. We were good defensively on third down the whole game. We scored 35 points in the third quarter; that was great to see. We had a lot of guys step up and make some big plays. If Kourtnei Brown is going to play like that every time he’s a captain, I should make him a captain every week,” said Swinney.
Right out of the gate today, UNC’s quarterback looked clearly frazzled and after a false start penalty, threw his first interception in 4 games which was picked off by Jonathan Meeks and returned 17 yards into UNC territory. When Clemson’s offense came onto the field, after a few run plays and a 12 yard gain on a completion to Hopkins, Boyd was sacked for a loss of 8, forcing a 39 yard field goal attempt which was good, making the score Clemson 3 UNC 0.
After a three and out by both teams, UNC was quick to get a drive going as Brynn Renner connected on a 15 yard pass that a Clemson 15 yard penalty was later tacked on to. On the next play, Renner connected on a 37 yard pass for the touchdown making the score 7-3 UNC.
Although a 10 yard holding penalty hurt Clemson on their next offensive drive, Nuk Hopkins has come alive with two huge receptions during the drive, one for 13 yards and the next for 26. Although Clemson started on a great drive, a 6 yard sack on Tajh Boyd stalled it forcing the Tigers to punt the ball.
During the Tar Heel’s next offensive series, it was Clemson defensive end Corey Crawford who came to play as he put pressure on Renner twice, helping cause the Tar Heels to go 3 and out. When Clemson got the ball back, Hopkins started off right where he left off with yet another first down grab.
Andre Ellington came off of the field limping during this drive however Mike Bellamy came in for him and on the first play took the ball for 10 yards into UNC red zone. On the next play it was Hopkins for a 25 yard touchdown grab making the score 10-7 Clemson.
In the first quarter alone, Hopkins has had 5 receptions for 83 yards.
On the Tar Heel’s next drive a quick pass for a gain of 14 yards to Dwight Jones started it off putting Carolina in a good position going into the second quarter. A holding penalty with the Tar Heel’s on Clemson’s 10 yard line, stalled the drive for the Heel’s causing them to attempt a 33 yard field goal which ended up good tying the game at 10.
The Tigers came out throwing on the next drive, as Boyd connected with Watkins for a 14 yard gain and Dwayne Allen for an 11 yard completion. After a 12 yard run by Boyd, followed by a 12 yard gain by Hopkins, Boyd connected on a 29 yard bomb with Martavis Bryant for the touchdown putting the Tigers ahead 17-10.
After Clemson’s scoring drive, their defense came out with momentum, with Corey Crawford again making a big stop on first down by tipping the ball away from a receiver, helping force North Carolina to go 3 and out.
Clemson’s next drive wasn’t as successful as they weren’t able to get into much of a rhythm before having to punt the ball.
On UNC’s next drive, they ran one play until Renner threw his second interception of the game, caught by Clemson defensive end Kourtnei Brown who ran it 20 yards for a touchdown making the score 24-10 Clemson. This was the first time a defensive lineman has scored a touchdown off an interception since Jock McKissick scored on a 92 yard interception return against South Carolina.
UNC wasted no time in fighting back as Renner completed a 57 yard touchdown pass to Boyd, making the score 24-17 in favor of the Tigers.
On UNC’s next drive, a fumble recovery by Rashard Hall stalled the drive, giving Clemson back the ball and the momentum moving forward. The Heels were able to stall the Tigers drive with a loss of yardage by Ellington, forcing a 46 yard field goal by Catanzaro that barely missed keeping the score at 24-17.
The second half was started off by a 31 yard kickoff return by Sammy Watkins, however Clemson was unable to get a drive going after the return causing them to punt.
After forcing the Tar Heels to go three and out, the Tigers quickly got going on offense, with a 39 yard completion from Boyd to Hopkins, who now has 9 receptions for 157 yards. After a facemask penalty, the Tigers continue to roll and their drive ended in a 1 yard touchdown run by Tajh Boyd making the score 31-17 in favor of the Tigers.
On the kickoff return, the Tar Heels fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Clemson’s Garry Smith. The next play, tight end Brandon Ford caught a 12 yard touchdown pass from Boyd making the score 38-17 in favor of Tigers.
On the next play however, UNC’s TJ Thorpe ran the kickoff return 100 yards for the touchdown keeping the Heel’s in the game with the score 38-24.
Clemson’s Jaron Brown answered back with a 36 yard kickoff return, and Clemson’s offense started off right where it left off. After a few short plays, Boyd connected with his favorite target Sammy Watkins for a 42 yard touchdown making the score 45-24.
UNC was unable to come up with a drive on offense giving Clemson the ball back immediately. Several runs by DJ Howard and a 6 yard and 9 yard completion to Dwayne Allen. A facemask penalty against UNC and a 25 yard completion to Martavis Bryant continue the drive. A 9 yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Allen makes the score 52-24 Clemson.
Boyd has broken touchdown record against BCS opponents with 5 today, and he’s tied Woody Dantzler’s touchdown responsibility with 6.
On UNC’s next drive, they may have played one play before Renner was sacked by Rashard Hall and the fumble was recovered by Kourtnei Brown who ran it back for his second touchdown of the night.
It was after that when Clemson started to warm up backup quarterback Cole Stoudt.
UNC started to get into a groove on their next drive, getting into the red zone however Clemson’s player of the game on defense Kourtnei Brown tipped Renner’s pass and it was intercepted by Clemson’s Darius Robinson giving Clemson the ball back.
With Stoudt in the game, he got off to a slow start on a Mike Bellamy fumble that gave UNC the ball ion Clemson’s 10. North Carolina easily scored making it a four touchdown game at 59-31. North Carolina added another late touchdown against the Tiger’s second and third string.
Boyd ended the day completing 27 of 46 passes for 367 yards, 5 touchdowns and a running touchdown. He broke the Clemson record for touchdowns against a BCS opponent and tied former quarterback Woody Dantzler with 6 touchdown responsibilities (5 passing, 1 rushing).
Although the offense slowed down after Boyd left the game, Rod McDowell made an impact as he rushed the ball for 10 yards as well as Marquan Jones who caught a few passes as well.
Although the Tigers ended their streak of scoring in consecutive quarters (21) in today’s game, I would call this a good day and a great win for a very special Clemson team.
The Tigers moved to 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the ACC with the victory.