If post-game excuses counted as touchdowns, North Carolina would have blown Clemson out of Death Valley on Saturday.
Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, the game was settled on the field, where Clemson handled North Carolina 31-20 behind backup quarterback Woodrow Dantzler and a renewed Tiger rushing attack.
With the loss, North Carolina dropped to 1-3 (0-3 ACC) and saw their bowl hopes take another early-season hit.
“I thought their quarterback Dantzler came in and did an exceptional job. He was able to make some big plays,” said UNC head coach Carl Torbush.
Tar Heel defenders struggled against Dantzler’s ability to run from the quarterback position. Defensive end Ross McAllister said that the added dimension that Dantzler brought to the offense kept North Carolina’s defense of balance.
“You couldn’t key on the passing game like you could earlier on. Pure shotgun is easier to go against when they’re passing the ball 75% of the time. After their first QB got hurt it was hard to pick up on what they were doing. We were trying to pass rush and they would sneak in runs,” he said.
Linebacker Merceda Perry said that while the Tar Heels knew what to expect with Dantzler on the field, they simply couldn’t hold the Tiger offense.
“We knew when Streeter went out to expect the run. We just weren’t able to get the run stopped. It just hurts to know that we knew what to do, we just couldn’t get them stopped,” Perry said.
Clemson’s much-maligned offensive line bounced back after being manhandled by Virginia Tech. The undersized Tiger line earned the respect of North Carolina’s defenders.
“They played well. When they were running they did a good job. They didn’t feel weak or light. I’d heard that they had 250-lb. guys out there. It didn’t look like there was anyone who was 250-lb. on their line,” said McAllister.
“We knew that they had a very small offensive line but we didn’t know they were so quick,” Perry said.
The North Carolina offense struggled to get on track against Clemson’s aggressive defense. Quarterback Ronald Curry was sacked seven times and Tar Heel running backs were held to only 50-yards.
“They created some pressure but I didn’t think I did a good job making some hot reads and just getting rid of the ball. On a couple of the sacks, they got to me and did a very good job on defense. I hold myself accountable on a couple of them,” Curry said.
Freshman running back Daniel Davis was reluctant to give Clemson’s defense credit despite being held to 33 yards on ten carries.
“Any team can penetrate a line. It just depends on when and how it’s done. I wasn’t impressed. They’re a good team- I can’t take that away from them. We could have won the game. It was just different plays that beat us and we really beat ourselves,” he said.
Earlier in the week, Curry was credited with a comment referring to drunks in the Clemson crowd. After the game, Curry was asked about his remarks.
“They asked me “what did the fellas tell you about coming down here?” and I said that I heard it was a very rowdy crowd and a good football atmosphere and you might have some drunks in the crowd. It’s just what I heard- I didn’t know who was going to be in the crowd. They were good fans- good football fans. I’d love to play here every game, but we can’t,” he said.