No. 1 Clemson stops 2-point conversion, beats North Carolina

  • Clemson's Travis Etienne (9) celebrates his touchdown with Trevor Lawrence (16) and Tee Higgins (5) during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Seward) Chris Seward

  • Clemson's Travis Etienne (9) evades North Carolina Tar Heels's Storm Duck (29) as he runs for a touchdown during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Seward) Chris Seward

  • North Carolina's Beau Corrales (15) celebrates as he runs for a touchdown while teammates Carl Tucker (86) and Ed Montilus (63) look on during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Clemson in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Seward) Chris Seward

  • Clemson Tigers's Amari Rodgers (3) can't hang onto this pass as he's defended by North Carolina's Trey Morrison (4) and Tyler Davis (13) during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Seward) Chris Seward

  • Clemson's Tanner Muse (19) and Isaiah Simmons (11) break up a pass intended for North Carolina's Carl Tucker (86) during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Seward) Chris Seward

  • Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) looks to hand off to Lyn-J Dixon (23) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Seward) Chris Seward

  • Clemson's Tee Higgins (5) celebrates his touchdown with Justyn Ross (8) during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Seward) Chris Seward

Associated Press
Published: 9/28/2019 8:08:30 PM

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Clemson stuffed North Carolina’s 2-point conversion attempt with 1:17 left and the No. 1 Tigers held off the Tar Heels, 21-20, on Saturday.

The Tigers (5-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) had trouble all day in trying to extend their school-record winning streak to 20 games. They didn’t go ahead for good until Trevor Lawrence hit Tee Higgins on a 38-yard touchdown pass with 9:54 left, then came up with the stop after the Tar Heels went for the lead instead of a tie after Javonte Williams’ short scoring run.

The Tigers strung out Sam Howell’s option run to the right, with Xavier Thomas, James Skalski and Nolan Turner combining to bring down Howell as he turned toward the goal line.

Howell tried to pitch the ball back to Dazz Newsome as he was going down, but Newsome had nowhere to go near the sideline and was pushed out of bounds to put the Tar Heels (2-3, 1-1) short and effectively clinch the win for Clemson – though it was far tougher than expected for the 27-point road favorite.

“We did enough to win, but listen, I thought they outplayed us,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in a postgame TV interview. “I thought they outcoached us, simple as that. We were really fortunate to win the game. At the end of the day you need one more point to win and we came away with the victory, so I’m proud of our guys.”

The Tar Heels gave themselves a shot late, but fell to 0-10 against No. 1-ranked teams in the Associated Press college football poll.

“It’s just a play we’re very confident in,” Howell said about the 2-point conversion try. “In my opinion, it was a good play call. That’s something we liked against them, and they just made a good play on defense.”

The takeaway

Clemson: The Tigers had made everything look easy through the opening month of the schedule. The closest call had been a 24-10 win against a ranked Texas A&M team that didn’t reach the end zone in until the final seconds of a game long since decided. But Clemson had all kinds of trouble getting going Saturday, from Travis Etienne’s first-half fumble to set up a UNC touchdown to multiple false-start penalties that continued undercutting the Tigers’ attempts to build momentum. In the end, the Tigers did just enough to stay unbeaten and avoid a shocking upset.

“We know it’s hard to win,” Lawrence said. “Sometimes it’s easy to forget that when you win so many games by so many points. This game is only going to make us better. Obviously, we’d like to win every game by four touchdowns, but this is going to make us better and show us how to appreciate every win.”

North Carolina: The Tar Heels have lost three straight after a 2-0 start in Mack Brown’s return to the program he led more than two decades ago. Their first four games came down to the final drives to make them a tested bunch, and this one unexpectedly followed suit. The defense hung in against the Tigers’ high-powered offense and made Clemson work for everything, while the offense did just enough to stay close before coming up with a 16-play TD drive spanning 8½ minutes to put them on the brink of a historic win.




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