The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

No. 22 UNC football falls, 31-20, in sixth straight loss to Clemson

UNC sophomore running back Omarion Hampton (28) gets tackled by defender during the matchup against Clemson at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, SC, on Saturday, Nov. 18.

When Clemson junior running back Phil Mafah recorded a 3-yard touchdown to bring the Tigers out to a 21-7 lead, Omarion Hampton quickly responded.

The sophomore running back's third-quarter 55-yard rushing touchdown brought the No. 22 Tar Heels within a score of the Tigers, but it wasn't enough to initiate a UNC comeback. North Carolina fell, 31-20, in Death Valley on Saturday to a Clemson team that, per Mack Brown's words, has woken up in recent games. 

Saturday marks the Tigers' sixth straight win over the Tar Heels and UNC's largest margin in a loss since its 39-10 defeat  to Clemson in the 2022 ACC Championship. That title game loss also marks the last time North Carolina scored less than 25 points.

Following Hampton's explosive third-quarter score, Clemson running back Will Shipley rushed for a 33-yard touchdown.  The Tar Heels soon entered the fourth quarter trailing for the first time this season, facing a 14-point deficit at 28-14.

After a 21-yard field goal from Tiger graduate kicker Jonathan Weitz, Hampton recorded a 3-yard touchdown to cut UNC's deficit to 11 points at 31-20, but that's as close as the Tar Heels would come in the final quarter.

The game quickly slipped from UNC's grasp in the second half despite a rather dominant start.

First quarter, I felt like we had a chance to get up on them and get a jump on them," sophomore quarterback Drake Maye said. "But we just hurt ourselves, kind of shot ourselves in the foot.”

The Tar Heels got out to a quick lead after Maye launched a pass off his back foot to junior wideout J.J. Jones for a 33-yard touchdown.

Despite gaining 198 yards, UNC only led 7-0 after the first quarter thanks in part to Hampton's two fumbles — his first and second of the season. He recorded both in the red zone, with the latter on what would've been a 64-yard rushing touchdown to put North Carolina up 14-0.

He’s been great with the ball," Brown said. "That’s why my hair is graying."

Less than five minutes into the second quarter, the Tar Heels were likely wishing they had those two chances back when Clemson sophomore quarterback Cade Klubnik connected with junior tight end Jake Briningstool to tie the game at 7-7.

The Tigers had multiple opportunities to take the lead at the end of the second quarter and, with three seconds left in the half, they finally capitalized.

While the Tar Heels forced a crucial Shipley fumble in the red zone with two minutes remaining, a Giovanni Biggers interception on Clemson's next drive was called back as senior linebacker Cedric Gray was called for roughing the passer.

I saw him release the ball," Gray said. "I tried to pull off some. From my perspective my arm kind of grazed his helmet. I thought that could’ve been let go but it is what it is.”

Six plays later, Klubnik ran up the middle and into the end zone for a 3-yard rushing touchdown to put Clemson up 14-7 at the half.

From there, the Tigers never looked back, and easily thwarted UNC's hopes to come away with its first win in Death Valley since 2001.

UNC will hit the road again next Saturday to take on N.C. State at Carter-Finley Stadium on Nov. 25 in its final game of the regular season.


@dthsports |

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

Shelby Swanson

Shelby Swanson is the 2023-24 sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as an assistant sports editor and senior writer. Shelby is a junior pursuing a double major in media and journalism and Hispanic literatures and cultures.