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GAMEDAY College Football

Atlantic Coast Conference Championship: Clemson 39, North Carolina 10

By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney's Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn't the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC's first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins — who had struggled in Clemson's 51-45 win over Wake Forest — returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye's fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah's 4-yard touchdown run — Clemson's second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn't transfer — and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina — the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

December 3, 2022


Scoring Summary
First Quarter ClemUNC
UNC TD 8:50 Drake Maye 3 yd run (Noah Burnette kick) 0 7
Clem TD 1:41 Davis Allen 1 yd pass from Cade Klubnik (B.T. Potter kick) 7 7
Clem TD 0:35 Phil Mafah 4 yd run (B.T. Potter kick) 14 7
Second Quarter ClemUNC
Clem TD 6:02 Cade Klubnik 1 yd run (B.T. Potter kick) 21 7
UNC FG 1:20 Noah Burnette 25 yd FG 21 10
Clem FG 0:00 B.T. Potter 52 yd FG 24 10
Third Quarter ClemUNC
Clem TD 5:05 Nate Wiggins 98 yd interception return (DREW SWINNEY 2pt run) 32 10
Clem TD 0:42 Will Shipley 2 yd run (B.T. Potter kick) 39 10
Team Stats
  Clemson North Carolina
First downs 17 26
  Rushing 4 11
  Passing 13 13
  Penalty 0 2
3rd Down Efficiency 5-10, 50% 9-16, 56%
4th down efficiency 0-1, 0% 0-1, 0%
Rushes-Yards 21-68 36-113
Passing Yards 317 273
Return Yards 114 6
Completions-Attempts-Int 28-35-0 27-43-2
Sacks-Yards Lost 0-0 4--10
Punts 4 3
Punts-Average 45.3 48.7
Fumbles Lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties - Yards 6-46 3-25
Time of Possession 24:59 35:01
Clemson Passing
Player Cmp Att Yds TDs Int
C. Klubnik 20 24 279 1 0
P. Mafah 1 1 19 0 0
D. Uiagalelei 2 5 10 0 0
H. Johnson 5 5 9 0 0
North Carolina Passing
Player Cmp Att Yds TDs Int
D. Maye 26 42 268 0 2
J. Criswell 1 1 5 0 0
Clemson Rushing
Player Carries Yds Avg TDs
C. Klubnik 7 30 4.3 1
W. Shipley 7 18 2.6 1
P. Mafah 2 10 5.0 1
D. Thomas 2 7 3.5 0
K. Pace 3 3 1.0 0
North Carolina Rushing
Player Carries Yds Avg TDs
E. Green 21 65 3.1 0
D. Maye 11 24 2.2 1
J. Criswell 2 19 9.5 0
D. Jones 1 4 4.0 0
O. Hampton 1 1 1.0 0
Clemson Receiving
Player Rec Yds Avg TDs
C. Turner 3 101 33.7 0
J. Ngata 5 46 9.2 0
B. Spector 1 43 43.0 0
A. Williams 3 40 13.3 0
W. Shipley 4 26 6.5 0
D. Allen 3 20 6.7 1
C. Klubnik 1 19 19.0 0
D. Swinney 2 11 5.5 0
H. Greene 1 6 6.0 0
A. Randall 1 5 5.0 0
T. Herbstreit 1 4 4.0 0
J. Briningstool 1 1 1.0 0
W. Taylor 2 -5 -2.5 0
North Carolina Receiving
Player Rec Yds Avg TDs
J. Downs 11 100 9.1 0
K. Morales 3 54 18.0 0
A. Green 5 53 10.6 0
J. Jones 1 21 21.0 0
E. Green 3 18 6.0 0
B. Nesbit 2 11 5.5 0
G. Blackwell 1 10 10.0 0
K. Paysour 1 6 6.0 0
Clemson Interceptions
Player Int Yards
N. Wiggins 1 98
J. Lukus 1 0
North Carolina Interceptions
Player Int Yards
Clemson Punting
Player Punts Yards Avg
A. Swanson 3 134 44.7
J. Smith 1 47 47.0
North Carolina Punting
Player Punts Yards Avg
B. Kiernan 3 146 48.7
Clemson Punt Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
A. Williams 1 -2 -2.0
North Carolina Punt Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
J. Downs 1 6 6.0
Clemson Kick Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
W. Shipley 1 18 18.0
North Carolina Kick Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
Clemson Missed FG
Player Length
North Carolina Missed FG
Player Length
N. Burnette 31




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