CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Player of the Year, led the top-ranked Clemson Tigers to a 45-37 league championship win over the 10th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday.
Watson completed 26 of 42 pass attempts and threw three touchdown strikes, rushed 24 times for 131 net yards, and ran for two touchdowns.
As result of his performance, Watson was named the game MVP after setting the title game record for TD responsibility with the five scores, and became the first player in the ACC title game record book to post 400 or more yards of total offense (411).
“Just a hell of a ballgame tonight,” Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora said.
“You know, Clemson was the better team tonight, and they did a heck of a job. Our guys fought all the way to the end and felt like we were in it all the way to the end, and proud of the way we played.”
Coincidentally enough, the loss for the Tar Heels (11-2, 8-0) was the second in as many played at the facility in the Queen City this season, having lost to South Carolina in their first game of the year there.
The loss ended North Carolina’s record 11-game win streak as the undefeated Tigers (13-0, 8-0) posted the most points that the Tar Heels allowed this season (45) on 608 yards of total offense, an ACC record and the most allowed by the UNC defense this season.
Shakeel Rashad and M.J. Stewart finished with 12 tackles apiece to lead the Tar Heels defense.
Highlights – ACC Digital Network (TheACC.com)
For the Tar Heels, Marquise Williams broke his own single-season UNC record for rushing yards by a quarterback, now sitting at 867 yards, and completed 11 passes for 224 yards, averaging 20.4 yards per completion.
Williams threw for three touchdowns – a 46-yarder to T.J. Logan, and three- and 17-yarders to Ryan Switzer.
He also rushed for 81 yards and scored on a one-yard touchdown run as well.
“Yeah, it’s tough, coming back into my hometown not being able to get a win,” Williams said.
“I’m excited the way we fought today. A lot of people thought we were going to come out here and just lay an egg, but we didn’t. We came out and fought to the end. That’s what I love about this team. So what, I didn’t win – I like the outcome of my team.”
Coming into the game, the odds of the Tar Heels beating Clemson were stacked against them as North Carolina had never beaten the No. 1 ranked team in the Associated Press poll.
Playing in its first game against a No. 1 team since 1999 (42-10 loss to Florida State), North Carolina fell short in trying to end that losing streak which extended to 10 games against the Tigers.
T.J. Logan caught a 46-yard touchdown in the first quarter, his first career touchdown reception.
After making the catch at the line of scrimmage, he ran through the secondary for the score that put the Tar Heels up 9-7 with 1:44 remaining in the opening period.
Eventually trailing 42-23 in the fourth quarter after Watson ran the ball in from the two-yard line, Elijah Hood scored on a two-yard run with 9:54 to play.
Clemson added back a field goal to increase North Carolina’s deficit to 15 points, trailing 45-30, before Switzer’s second TD catch of the game gave the Tar Heels hope of adding more points on the board with 1:13 to play.
However, a disputed offside call on the ensuing onside kick that was recovered by UNC negated any opportunity for a comeback.
“I had a chance to look at it, and they missed it,” Fedora stated.
“They were wrong. That’s all I’m going to say about it. They were wrong.”