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Clemson Tigers's Amari Rodgers (3) can't hang onto this pass as he's defended by North Carolina's Trey Morrison (4) and Tyler Davis (13) during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Trevor Lawrence connected with Tee Higgins on a 38-yard touchdown pass with 9:54 left and top-ranked Clemson stopped a late 2-point conversion to hold off North Carolina 21-20 on Saturday.
The Tigers (5-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) had trouble all day in trying to extend their school-record winning streak to 20 games. They didn't go ahead for good until Lawrence's scoring strike in the fourth, then came up with the clinching stop after the Tar Heels pulled within a point with 1:17 left on Javonte Williams' short run.
The Tar Heels (2-3, 1-1) went for 2 and the lead, but the Tigers strung out Sam Howell's option run to the right and dragged him down short of the end zone to effectively clinch the win — though it was far tougher than expected as a 27-point road favorite.
The Tar Heels gave themselves a shot late, but fell to 0-10 against No. 1-ranked teams in The Associated Press college football poll.
Clemson: The Tigers had made everything look easy through the opening month of the schedule. The closest call had been a 24-10 win against a ranked Texas A&M team that didn't reach the end zone in until the final seconds of a game long since decided. But Clemson had all kinds of trouble getting going Saturday, from Travis Etienne's first-half fumble to set up a UNC touchdown to multiple false-start penalties that continued undercutting the Tigers' attempts to build momentum. In the end, the Tigers did just enough to stay unbeaten and avoid a shocking upset.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels have lost three straight after a 2-0 start in Mack Brown's return to the program he led more than two decades ago. Their first four games came down to the final drives to make them a tested bunch, and this one unexpectedly followed suit. The defense hung in against the Tigers' high-powered offense and made Clemson work for everything, while the offense did just enough to stay close. before coming up with a 16-play TD drive spanning 8 1/2 minutes to put them on the brink of a win.
Clemson: The Tigers have an open date next weekend followed by a visit from Florida State on Oct. 12.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels travel to Georgia Tech next Saturday.