Clemson vs. North Carolina score: Cade Klubnik leads Tigers to seventh ACC championship in eight years

No. 9 Clemson isn't going to compete for a national title this season, but it returned to conference supremacy and clinched a spot in the Orange Bowl with a 39-10 shellacking of No. 23 North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game. The win marks the Tigers' seventh ACC crown of the past eight seasons and brings a bit of redemption for Dabo Swinney's program after it failed to make the league title game last season for the first time since 2014.

North Carolina jumped out to an early 7-0 lead but faded fast once Clemson turned to freshman quarterback Cade Klubnik on its third possession. With junior starter DJ Uiagalelei proving ineffective, Klubnik entered and quickly flipped the momentum in the Tigers' favor by directing a 71-yard touchdown drive. The former five-star prospect and heir-apparent to Uiagalelei completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions, while also running for 30 yards and a score. Klubnik remained on the field until third-string quarterback Hunter Johnson entered with the game out of hand in the fourth quarter.

Klubnik's counterpart, North Carolina's Drake Maye, guided the Tar Heels into the red zone five times, but those trips produced just 10 points. A fumble and a blocked field goal attempt hampered the Tar Heels in the first half, and a costly interception gutted their chances during the the third quarter.

With the Tar Heels trailing just 24-10, Maye threw an ill-advised third-down pass that Clemson's Nate Wiggins intercepted and returned 98 yards for a touchdown with 5:05 left in the third quarter. The play zapped UNC's hopes of a rally and ushered in the Tar Heels' third consecutive loss. At 9-4, North Carolina can still reach double-digit victories for just the second time since 1997 if it wins a bowl game. 

Clemson has already reached double-digit wins for a 12th straight season under Swinney and can finish 12-2 if it wins the Orange Bowl. Tennessee is its projected opponent for the game, which is set for Dec. 30 in Miami. With such an emphatic win in the ACC Championship Game, Clemson would have been in great shape to make the College Football Playoff if only it hadn't lost to South Carolina last week. Without the loss to the Gamecocks, which marked Clemson's first home loss since 2016, the Tigers would have benefitted tremendously from this weekend's losses by No. 3 TCU and No. 4 USC. 

But a league title and New Year's Six bowl appearance are nothing to scoff at, especially after the program lost long-time coordinators Tony Elliot (Virginia) and Brent Venables (Oklahoma) to head coaching gigs after the 2021 season.

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Impressive performance

Final: Clemson 39, North Carolina 10

After falling behind 7-0 early, Clemson dominated the rest of the ACC Championship Game. Cade Klubnik entered for DJ Uiagalelei on the Tigers' third series and didn't exit until the game was out of reach in the fourth quarter. He was sensational, and the Clemson defense was nasty in the red zone. The Tigers aren't going to make the CFP, but they can finish 12-2 with a win in the Orange Bowl, and if Klubnik plays like this in that game, then the Tigers will be an offseason darling. The former five-star prospect made it abundantly clear tonight that he is the program's future at the position.

December 4, 2022, 4:38 AM
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@ClemsonFB via Twitter
December 4, 2022, 4:54 AM


What a pick. True freshman Jeadyn Lukus just elevated for a beautiful interception with 5:14 remaining to keep North Carolina from getting on the board here in the second half. That's Maye's second pick of the game and a confidence-building type of play for a young reserve on this Clemson defense.

December 4, 2022, 4:28 AM

Another empty trip

Yet another empty trip to the red zone for North Carolina, which has just been abysmal at finishing drives against this Clemson defense. The Tar Heels went for it on fourth down and Maye had nothing. He's slow getting up and hobbles over to the sideline as a disastrous night winds mercifully to a close. Maye has a bright future ahead of him, but this final month of the season will be one to forget.

December 4, 2022, 4:09 AM

UNC's defense

It is not putting up much of a fight. A silly pass interference call and then a gamble from a corner that didn't pay off combine to set up the Tigers for an easy score. This thing is getting out of hand. Tar Heels have just fallen apart here in the last quarter of the season. Too many dumb mistakes. Not all on the defense because the offense has fallen off considerably. But the defense isn't helping the cause.

December 4, 2022, 3:55 AM
@ClemsonFB via Twitter
December 4, 2022, 3:54 AM
@ClemsonFB via Twitter
December 4, 2022, 3:38 AM


North Carolina's red zone woes continue in an utterly disastrous way as Drake Maye throws an interception right to Nate Wiggins, who runs it back 98 yards for a touchdown. Sheesh. Another wasted drive for the Tar Heels. It was a third-down play, and he was just trying to make something happen, but even if he'd completed it, the Tar Heels weren't going to score on the play. Just a crushing error. 

December 4, 2022, 3:36 AM


That's how we start the third quarter as the teams trade punts. A fumbled snap ruined a Clemson series that began with a 7-yard gain. Put the Tigers behind the sticks. UNC has the football at midfield with a chance to sneak back into this thing. Been all Clemson for a long time. Feels like the Tar Heels need to take some deep shots considering that's what Clemson's defense has been vulnerable against this season. Flashing back to the Wake Forest game and the South Carolina game, it seems like trying for shots over the top is the move.

December 4, 2022, 3:29 AM

Here we go 

North Carolina gets the football to start the second half. Huge series to get things started. Tar Heels had three drives of 10+ plays and 60+ yards in the first half but just 10 points to show for it. In space, this offense has been successful. In tight-yardage situations (the red zone), not so much.

December 4, 2022, 3:16 AM
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