Clemson holds a 29-17-1 advantage in the series with North Carolina that dates to 1897, the second year of football at Clemson. That 1897 game was just the sixth game in Clemson football history and the Tar Heels won the contest 28-0. It was the first game for the Tigers against a team that is currently in the ACC. Obviously the league was not formed until 1953.
Clemson has won nine of the last 13 games and 13 of the last 18 in the series, but North Carolina has won three in a row. This is the first time North Carolina has beaten Clemson three straight since 1969-72 when the Tar Heels won four in a row.
Prior to the 1997 17-10 North Carolina victory, the Tar Heels had not won at Clemson since 1980, a 24-19 victory on ABC TV. Lawrence Taylor provided the key play of that game for North Carolina, a sack of Clemson quarterback Homer Jordan late in the fourth period with Clemson inside the Tar Heel 10. Clemson had won seven in a row over North Carolina in Death Valley by a combined score of 188-69.
In 1995, the Tigers were victorious,17-10. It was a classic defensive game. Brian Dawkins, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, provided the big play with a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown. Nealon Greene threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Joe Woods and Anthony Simmons had 19 tackles. Mond Wilson, playing for the injured Andye McCrorey, had 16 tackles for the Clemson defense, which intercepted five North Carolina passes, two by Peter Ford and one by Andy Ford.
Clemson has six wins over North Carolina when the Tar Heels enter the game as a ranked team. The most shocking took place in 1992 when a Clemson team that would end the season with a 5-6 record, earned a 40-7 victory over 18th-ranked North Carolina. It is the largest margin of victory for Clemson in the series.
This will be just the second time since 1975 that both North Carolina and Clemson face each other with a losing record. Clemson was 1-7 and North Carolina 2-6 heading into that contest. Last season, Clemson was 1-3 and North Carolina 0-3 heading into the game.
Last Meeting at Clemson
North Carolina 17, Clemson 10
1997 (At Clemson, SC)
Clemson played a top-10 team to the wire before falling by a touchdown as eighth-ranked North Carolina defeated the Tigers 17-10 in Death Valley. Stingy defense by the Tar Heels prevented Clemson from taking full advantage of four North Carolina turnovers and two blocked kicks.
Both defenses opened the game impressively, as each offense went three-and-out to start the game. Following a 60-yard boot by the Tigers’ Kevin Laird, North Carolina took over at their own 20. On third-and-eight, quarterback Chris Keldorf tossed to receiver Jason Peace for a gain of two before freshman Robert Carswell stripped the ball free and rush end Adrian Dingle fell on it to give Clemson possession at the North Carolina 24. Three plays later on second-and-goal from the eight, Nealon Greene ran off-guard on a designed sneak out of the gun to the three where he was hit. The senior, who was playing in his last game at Death Valley, managed to lay the ball over the goal-line for the first points of the afternoon.
With 10:58 to go in the first half, the Tar Heels began their first scoring march of the day from their own 29. On third-and-18 from the Clemson 45, Keldorf found receiver L.C. Stevens deep over the middle for 44 yards to the Clemson one. Three plays later, North Carolina struck for their first points when Keldorf hit Na Brown slanting over the middle for the touchdown.
With 30 seconds left in the half, the Tar Heels took over at their own 29. On the first play of this drive, Keldorf connected with Stevens for 67 yards to the Tiger four on what looked like an instant replay of their hook-up on the touchdown drive. Limited by time, UNC settled for a 19-yard field-goal and a 10-7 halftime lead.
Clemson gained three of their six first downs of the afternoon on a 36-yard drive late in the third quarter. The drive started at the UNC 42 and was set-up by a DoMarco Fox interception. The Tigers ran the ball nine straight plays before throwing incomplete on third-and-goal from the six. Richardson then came on to nail a 23-yard field goal which retied the game, 10-10.
UNC returned to the well on its next possession, as Keldorf again found Stevens open over the middle-this time for 58 yards to the Tiger 5. Tailback Jonathan Linton raced the final five yards on the next play, as the Heels regained the lead, 17-10.
While the scoring was finished for the day, the excitement was not. Antwan Edwards blocked an 18-yard field goal attempt by McGee to keep the game in reach for the Tigers with 3:30 left. Later, the Tiger defense did not allow a first down, and the Tar Heels were forced to punt with 1:22 to go. DoMarco Fox came through with a big play, busting straight up the middle to block the punt and give Clemson’s offense one more chance from the 14-yard line of North Carolina. But Dre’ Bly intercepted Streeter’s fourth-down pass in the endzone with 32 seconds remaining to end Clemson’s upset bid.
Defensively, linebacker Anthony Simmons turned in a season-high tying 19 tackles, including three-for-loss and two sacks. Simmons also chipped in a pass-broken-up and three quarterback pressures in his ACC Defensive Lineman-of-the-Week performance.