Dating back to its season-ending game at Virginia Tech last year, North Carolina (1-3, 0-2 ACC) has lost its last three conference games by a combined score of 117-20.
John Bunting now owns a 25-39 record in five-plus seasons as UNC’s coach.
When asked if he still thought his football team was going in the right direction, Bunting – who eschewed the chair provided for him during the post-game press conference – replied, “It’s absolutely going in the right direction. ... We need to become a more consistent football team.”
James Davis, the ACC’s leading rusher, led the way with a career-high four touchdowns, C.J. Spiller scored twice and Reggie Merriwether added one for good measure.
“The offense did what it was supposed to do today,” said Davis, who finished with 95 yards on 15 carries. “I have to give credit to my offensive line; they opened holes for me to gain big yards the entire game.”
Clemson’s seven rushing touchdowns were the most ever scored against UNC. The previous record was six – held by five teams – most recently by Auburn in 1988.
Had the Tigers (3-1, 2-1 ACC) left their passing game in the locker room, the outcome would have been the same. But for kicks, the Tigers' Will Proctor and Cullen Harper combined for 180 yards through the air against Carolina’s porous defense.
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said, “We were hitting on all cylinders. They tried a bunch of different fronts – three defensive linemen, four defensive linemen…
“We thought UNC would show more intensity than they brought today.”
After the Tar Heels failed to score on the opening drive of the game, the Tigers enjoyed their longest drive of the season. Davis’ 1-yard run started the Clemson scoring following a 12-play, 90-yard march to the end zone.
When Carolina finally did manage a three-and-out stop early in the second quarter, Jesse Holley, on punt coverage, ran into Clemson punter Cole Chason to force the UNC defense right back on the field.
“We just came out flat,” linebacker Larry Edwards said. “You can’t do that against good teams. When you come out flat against good teams, they’re going to do what Clemson did. We had no enthusiasm; no intensity. It was just an overall bad performance for everybody.”
And if UNC’s strategy included wearing out the opposing kicker, that didn’t work either. In fact, even kick returner Brandon Tate, one of the Tar Heels' top playmakers, was corralled nearly every time he touched the ball. His fumble of a kickoff led directly to the Tigers’s third touchdown of the first quarter.
Behind 35-0 at halftime – on the road, the only positive the Tar Heels took from the first half was the fact they weren’t booed walking to the locker room. Although a few fans stuck around to the end of the game to voice their displeasure with Bunting as he departed the field.
Ahead 49-0, Bowden pulled the last of his starters with five minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Tar Heels then produced a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive, albeit against Clemson’s third- and fourth-string defense. Cam Sexton’s four-yard touchdown run capped the drive.
Sexton completed 7-of-22 passes for 96 yards. He also threw an interception.
As a team, the Tar Heels rushed for 54 yards.
Injury Notes: D.J. Walker left the game with a hamstring injury, and Jordan Hemby and Mark Paschal both suffered sprained knees.