UNC comes up short in Death Valley, loses to Clemson

The Tigers defense and quarterback Cade Klubnik took down the 22nd-ranked Tar Heels

Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik (2) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against North Carolina, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

CLEMSON, S.C. — Cade Klubnik threw for 219 yards and a touchdown and Clemson’s defense held high-scoring No. 22 UNC to its fewest points this season in a 31-20 victory Saturday night.

The revived Tigers (7-4, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their third straight and beat a ranked opponent for the second time in that stretch following their 31-23 win over then-No. 12 Notre Dame on Nov. 4.

Excited fans, mostly students, twice rushed onto the field before the final seconds ticked off and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. No matter, Clemson ran out the clock moments later the celebration was on in the season’s final home game.

UNC (8-3, 4-3) looked like it might reach its 40-point a game average in the first quarter when it put up 198 yards. But the usually sure-handed tailback Omarion Hampton — he had no fumbles this season — coughed up the ball twice close to the goal line to end drives.

Reigning ACC player of the year Drake Maye was 5 of 9 for 120 yards in the opening quarter. He was just 11 of 27 for 89 yards and an interception the rest of the way as the Tar Heels lost their sixth straight to Clemson.

Will Shipley, who had 126 yards rushing, had a 33-yard TD run and Phil Mafah scored from 3-yards out as Clemson opened a 28-14 lead in the third quarter.

The game changed for good on Hampton’s second fumble as he was steps away from completing a 64-yard scoring run when cornerback Nate Wiggins — considered an NFL first-rounder next spring — caught him and got the ball loose and it went out of bounds for a touchback.

Clemson followed with a 14-play scoring drive, ended on Klubnik’s 3-yard pass to tight end Jake Briningstool to tie things 7-all.

The Tigers defense clamped down after that, limiting the Tar Heels to 55 yards in the second quarter.

Clemson took the lead for good with an 11-play scoring drive. Klubnik’s interception in the end zone was wiped out by a roughing the passer call on linebacker Cedric Gray. Then Klubnik stretched the ball out just enough with 3 seconds to go for a 3-yard score.

The score stood up under review to put Clemson up for good, 14-7.

ACC leading rusher Hampton had 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including one of 55 yards.

UNC finishes the regular season at rival NC State on Saturday.