Clemson Tigers Escape UNC Tar Heels 45-37 To Win ACC Title, Seal Spot In Playoff
Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer

The number one team in the country Clemson Tigers have avoided the upset and beat the University of North Carolina Tar Heels by a score of 45-37. With the win, the Tigers remain perfect on the season 13-0 and 8-0 on the conference. With the loss, the Tar Heels fall to 11-2. By beating the Tar Heels, the Tigers basically lock up the number one spot in the country and therefore the top seed in the College Football Playoff.

The Clemson Tigers got the ball first and went down the field, but eventually missed the field goal. Then UNC got the ball and went all the way down the field and hit the field goal to make it a 3-0 game. It was clear that this as going to be a dogfight.

On the next Clemson drive, the Tigers went down the field and Deshaun Watson threw it to Wayne Gallman for the 16 yard touchdown to put Clemson up 7-3. After a UNC punt and a Clemson fumble, North Carolina QB Marquise Williams threw it deep to TJ Logan for the 46 yard touchdown to put UNC ahead 9-7. After two punts with 10:35 left in the 2nd quarter Deshaun Watson ran it in from nine yards out to make it a 14-9 game. With 3:52 left in the 2nd quarter Marquise Williams threw it to Ryan Switzer for the 3 yard touchdown to put the Tar Heels back on top during this topsy-turvy game. Right before the half, Deshaun Watson rolled right and jump passed it to Jordan Leggett for the 1 yard touchdown to put Clemson up 21-16.

After UNC got the ball to start the 2nd half, Marquise Williams led the Tar Heels all the way to the Clemson three yard line before being picked off. Clemson took that opportunity and made the most out of it as they marched down the turf. The drive ended with a 3 yard touchdown scamper by Wayne Gallman to put Clemson up 28-16. After a UNC turnover on downs, Clemson got the ball, and Deshaun Watson threw it to Artavis Scott for the 35 yard touchdown to the Tigers up 35-16.

However, the Tar Heels were not dead yet. After a UNC punt, Deshaun Watson got the ball and threw a pick. On the ensuing North Carolina drive, Marquise Williams ran it in from 1 yard out to make it a 35-23 game. Clemson would get that right back, however, when with 11:34 left in the fourth quarter Deshaun Watson ran it in from 2 yards out for the score to make it a 42-23 game.

The next UNC drive, Elijah Hood ran it in from 2 yards out for the score to make it a 42-30 Clemson lead. North Carolina soon got the ball back, but during that drive they fumbled. Clemson went down the field only getting a field goal out of it to make it a 45-30 game. Then on the last possession of the game for Carolina, Marquise Williams passed it to Ryan Switzer for the 17 yard touchdown to make it a 45-37 Clemson lead.

With a little over a minute left, the Tar Heels had yet to give up hope. They attempted an onside kick, and recovered at the first attempt. Celebrations commenced on the North Carolina sideline and in the stands, only for all to realize that a flag was sitting around the 40-yard line. The ACC refereeing crew had spotted a Carolina player offside, but replays disagreed with the refs. There was no blue-clad player offside, robbing the Heels of a chance to go and tie up the game. Because the call was offsides, they rekicked; it was another 50-50 ball which was mishandled by Clemson, but the Tigers eventually got on the ball. North Carolina challenged the call, but it was confirmed. Clemson proceeded to run out the clock and confirm their standing as the number one team in the nation.

Notes

In the middle of the 2nd quarter, Clemson safety TJ Green was called for targeting and therefore ejected after he absolutely lit up Ryan Switzer on a punt return. Green dove and hit Switzer with clear, helmet-to-helmet contact.

Clemson led in most statistical categories in this game with 608 total yards, 38:56 of time of possession, and only turning the ball over once, compared to two UNC turnovers.

What's Next

Clemson’s next game will be against one of the other teams that makes the final four, in whatever bowl the committee decides to send them to. UNC’s bowl game is also still unknown. 

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