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Halftime musings: Clemson vs. North Carolina

Matt Mynes // Photo Editor

Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik (2) takes off against the Tar Heels in the first half of the ACC Championship game on Dec. 3, 2022.

Here are our takeaways from the first half of the ACC Championship game, which Clemson leads 24-10 at the break. 

Offense/Special Teams 

— Freshman quarterback Cade Klubnik’s entrance to the game prompted an immediate uptick in offensive tempo. He finished the half with three touchdowns, and his footwork and confidence in the pocket were on obvious display as he put up a completion rate of 91%, going 10-of-11 for 149 yards with one passing and one rushing touchdown. 

— Uiagalelei has struggled thus far, finishing the first half 2-of-5 passing for 10 yards on the Tigers’ first two offensive drives. Uiagalelei did not return to the field for the rest of the half after Klubnik replaced him. 

— North Carolina is playing with a weakened secondary due to two of the Tar Heels’ starting defensive backs, Cam’ron Kelly and Storm Duck, sitting out. Clemson’s offense took advantage of it, putting up 178 pass yards, 68 of which came on Klubnik’s longest pass of the half to freshman wide receiver Cole Turner. 

— Sophomore cornerback Nate Wiggins blocked a 31-yard field goal attempt, saving the Tigers from allowing a score at the 7:59 mark in the second quarter. 

— Senior kicker B.T. Potter put up a perfect record, going 3-for-3 in extra points and 1-for-1 in field goal attempts. He broke several records in the first half alone, with his 52-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter, which was the longest in ACC Championship history and simultaneously making him the first player in ACC history to score 100 points or more in four seasons. 

— Clemson’s defense had a rough opening drive, allowing the Tar Heels to storm down the field on an 11-play, 78-yard scoring drive. Not only did Clemson give quarterback Drake Maye plenty of time to throw, but the Tar Heels had just two third downs and seemed to move the ball with ease.

— Klubnik’s play has certainly been the number one driving force for the Tigers’ success, but defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro made one of the most important plays of the first half. At the 1:15 mark in the first quarter, Orhorhoro recovered Maye’s fumble, a takeaway that set up a Clemson touchdown two plays later. Orhorhoro doesn’t receive the same national recognition as Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis, but the redshirt junior is a star in the making. 

— North Carolina wide receiver Josh Downs has given the Tigers problems, catching all seven of his targets for 77 yards. While the Tigers have kept everything in front of them, Downs is a significant threat that could spark a second-half comeback for the Tar Heels. 

— Barrett Carter has been a superstar in the second half of the season, and North Carolina felt his presence throughout the first half. 

— Along with his blocked field goal on special teams, Nate Wiggins has played phenomenally on defense. The sophomore cornerback has two pass breakups, both of which were in the end zone and prevented North Carolina touchdowns.

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