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Shipley, Tigers look to defeat UNC in team’s final ACC game

Jacob Citron
Clemson running back Will Shipley takes a handoff during the Tigers’ game against Georgia Tech on Nov. 11, 2023.

The Clemson Tigers will look to upset No. 20 North Carolina this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. for their final home game in Memorial Stadium.

Riding high off of their unexpected victory over Notre Dame two weeks ago and last week’s dominant win over Georgia Tech, Clemson is looking to win its remaining two regular season games ahead of bowl game announcements.

Currently, the Tigers are favored to win the matchup thanks to their recent offensive resurgence and consistent defense. Mack Brown, head coach of the Tar Heels, had nothing but praise for Dabo Swinney’s Clemson program.

“Dabo’s home record is 96-9 at Clemson, which I’d take here — I think it’s pretty good. But they’ve been playing so much better the last two weeks,” Brown said.

“Their whole problem was they were turning the ball over, and they quit turning it over,” he added. “So they’re forcing turnovers now, instead of turning the ball over, and they’re playing with a lot more confidence.”

North Carolina’s defense will have its hands full, with Clemson’s offense looking the best it has all season. The passing offense is led by receivers Beaux Collins and Tyler Brown, who have 510 and 447 receiving yards, respectively, and a combined seven touchdowns. The duo is supplemented by running back Phil Mafah, who leads the team with 721 yards and eight touchdowns, and Will Shipley, who is second on the team with 592 yards and four trips to the end zone this season.

Shipley is gunning to return to his peak form after being sidelined against the Fighting Irish suffering a big hit to the head in the Georgia Tech game, though he remains happy for Mafah, his close friend and roommate.

“For me as a competitor, it’s a difficult standpoint because I got one of my best friends out there rushing for almost 200 yards, absolutely kicking butt and doing his thing that he has worked for, kind of a sour and sweet taste,” he said.

The Tigers’ defense has performed well this season, earning praise from Swinney as having “played well enough to be a playoff team.”

Though it is questionable if linebacker Barrett Carter will suit up against the Tar Heels, his position group will be led by Jeremiah Trotter Jr., who looks to add to his 71 total tackles and 4.5 sacks this season.

That said, North Carolina has a dangerous quarterback.

“I mean, we have Drake Maye rolling in here,” Swinney said. “This will be a huge challenge. I have a lot of respect for Drake Maye. I’ll be glad when he’s gone. He’s a great one.”

Maye has thrown for 3,145 yards to lead the ACC in addition to 21 touchdowns this season. The Tar Heels’ high-flying offense is averaging 39.9 points per game, meaning Clemson’s defense could be playing on its heels on Saturday.

If last week’s performance was any indication, the Tigers have the depth to not only stay on the field but dominate the game. Four different players — all freshmen — made interceptions, one of which was returned for a pick six by cornerback Shelton Lewis. Clemson’s roster may best be known for veterans like defensive end Xavier Thomas and the aforementioned Trotter, but the newest class has been making sure its presence is felt.

The Tigers will look to replicate last year’s 39-10 victory in the ACC Championship over North Carolina to reaffirm the program as one of the best in the nation.

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Grace O'Donnell
Grace O'Donnell, Sports Editor
Katie Bradham
Katie Bradham, Senior Videographer
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