- Associated Press - Sunday, December 6, 2015

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Eighth-ranked North Carolina needed a few breaks to go its way to earn one of the four berths in the College Football Playoff.

Instead, it was No. 1 Clemson who got the biggest break of the game during its 45-37 victory over the Tar Heels on Saturday night in the ACC Championship game.

After scoring with 1 minute, 13 seconds remaining to cut the Tigers’ lead to eight points, North Carolina appeared to recover an onsides kick and swing the game’s momentum its way.

Then, the Tar Heels were called for being offsides - although replays didn’t show any player in a blue jersey being offside - and had to kick again.

After a wild scramble on the second onside kick, Clemson came up with the ball and ran out the clock to win its first ACC title since 2011.

“I had a chance to look at it and they missed it,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. “They were wrong. That’s all I’m going to say about it. They were wrong.”

Had the call not been made, the Tar Heels would have had the ball at their own 48-yard line. Instead, North Carolina went home empty-handed and awaiting their bowl fate.

“We’re not very happy with the way the play was ruled,” said receiver Ryan Switzer, who had two touchdown catches. “Obviously, it didn’t lose us the game; one play never loses you the game. But certainly we’d like that called correctly.”

Marquise Williams threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for 81 yards and a score for the Tar Heels (11-2, No. 10 CFP), who were trying to win their first ACC title in 35 years.

Williams connected with Switzer on TD passes of 3 and 17 yards, the second pulling North Carolina within 45-37. He also had a 46-yard scoring pass to T.J. Logan in the first quarter that gave the Tar Heels an early 9-7 lead.

Elijah Hood, who was a prep star in Charlotte, ran for 65 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Nick Weiler added a 30-yard field goal for North Carolina’s first points of the game.

Ultimately, the Tar Heels were unable to contain a potent Clemson offense led by ACC Player of the Year and Heisman Trophy hopeful Deshaun Watson.

Watson threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more, and his 420 total yards and five total touchdowns set ACC championship game records and assures the Tigers (13-0) a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Clemson racked up a conference championship game record 608 yards, eclipsing the 500-yard mark for the ninth consecutive game.

Wayne Gallman ran for 185 yards on 27 carries and scored two touchdowns and Artavis Scott had seven catches for 96 yards and a score.

The Tigers began to take control midway through the third quarter, turning a Williams interception in the red zone and failed fake punt into touchdowns to take 35-16 lead.

Williams cut the lead to 35-23 on a 1-yard TD run, but Watson’s second scoring run - a 2-yard keeper with 11:34 left in the fourth quarter - pushed Clemson’s lead to 42-23.

Hood scored on a 2-yard run midway through the fourth quarter to pulled the Tar Heels within 42-30. They were looking to make it a one-possession game when Tigers defensive end Shaq Lawson sacked Williams and forced a fumble that teammate Austin Bryant recovered. That led to a field goal and 45-30 lead.

Clemson’s lead might have been bigger had it not been for a curious decision by Tigers punter Andy Teasdall, who decided to take matters into his own hand and take off running on fourth-and-15 at his own 30. He picked up just 4 yards before being dragged down and received an earful from coaches when he returned to the sideline.

The Tar Heels took advantage right away, quickly moving 34 yards in four plays with Williams finding Switzer in the back of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown pass to give the Tar Heels a 16-14 lead.

However, Watson put the Tigers back in front with two seconds left in the first half on a 1-yard jump pass to tight end Jordan Leggett for a 21-16 halftime lead.

___

AP Sports Writer Steve Reed in Charlotte, N.C., contributed to this report.

____

AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org .

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide