Clemson secures its 15th ACC football championship, tying Florida State for the most among all schools. The top-ranked Tigers (13-0) are expected to hold the No. 1 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings when they are announced at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.
The Tigers’ 13 wins are a school single-season record, as is their 16-game winning streak dating back to last season.
MVP Deshaun Watson keyed the Tigers’ 608 total-yard performance, completing 26 of 42 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 131 yards and two more scores. Watson has now accounted for 41 touchdowns (30 passing, 11 rushing) this season.
Running back Wayne Gallman rushed for 187 yards on 28 carries and became the first player in ACC Championship Game to catch a touchdown pass and rush for a score in the same game.
Watson and Tar Heel counterpart Marquise Williams (three touchdown passes, one rushing TD) became fifth and six players to account for four or more TDs in a single game.
UNC (11-2) lost for the first time since Sept. 3 but remains in positon for a solid bowl bid. The Tar Heels will secure a postseason slot for the third consecutive year.
SECOND TIME A CHARM FOR TIGERS
Trailing by eight points with just over a minute remaining, the Tar Heels recovered the onside kick but were flagged for an offsides penalty. UNC tried again, and the ball was batted around and stayed live for what seemed a football eternity. But Clemson wound up with the football and the 2015 ACC title. UNC could only stop the clock twice with its remaining timeouts, and the Tigers ran out the clock.
HEELS STAY IN IT
The Tar Heels are quitting. Marquise Williams’ third touchdown pass of the game – a 17-yard hookup with junior wide receiver Ryan Switzer – brought UNC within 45-37 with 1:13 to play. The onside kick will be up next.
TIGER D DELIVERS
Trailing by 12, UNC drove to the Clemson 37 with just under seven minutes to play. But Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson -- the nation's leader in tackles for lost yardage -- sacked UNC's Marquise Williams to force a fumble that the Tigers recovered back near midfield. Clemson is now driving, holding a 42-30 lead and seeking to nail down its 15th overall ACC football championship and its first since 2011. Wayne Callmans has 177 yards, 155 or which have come in the second half. The Tigers are closing in on 600 yards total offense.
ELITE COMPANY FOR WILLIAMS
UNC quarterback Marquise Williams led the Tar Heels on a five-play, 74-yard drive that culminated in Elijah Hood's 2-yard touchdown run with 9:54 to play, pulling the Tar Heels within 42-30. Williams has 223 yards total offense on the night and became the fifth player in ACC history to eclipse the 10,000-yard mark for his career.
WATSON, FANS SET MARKS
Clemson's Deshaun Watson returned from a minor injury to rush for his second touchdown of the night on a 2-yard carry. Watson set a new Championship Game record by accounting for his fifth touchdown of the evening -- two rushing and three passing -- as the Tigers pushed their lead to 42-23 with just under 12 minutes to play.
It was also announced that this year's game set a new attendance mark as 74,514 are at Bank of America Stadium, marking the third sellout in six years.
WATSON SHAKEN UP
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson was slow to get up after being tackled on a second-down carry with less than a minute to play in the opening half. Watson, who has directed the Tigers to over 502 yards total offense, was replaced by Kelly Bryant as the period ended.
UNC STILL HAS LIFE
The Tar Heels capitalized on Clemson's first turnover of the game for a touchdown, as quarterback Marquise Williams capped a six-play, 42-yard drive with a 1-yard keeper for the score. Clemson leads 35-23 with 1:39 remaining in the third quarter.
Deshaun Watson's streak of 13 consecutive pass completions came to an end with 3:26 remaining in the third quarter when UNC defensive lineman Nazair Jones tipped an intercepted a pass at the Clemson 42-yard line. The Tigers challenged he ruling, but the call of an interception stood. The Tigers still led, 35-16.
TIGERS POUR IT ON
After seeing a Clemson fake in a punting situation come up short in the first half, the Tar Heels tried some trickery of their own to no avail with 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter. A ourth-down pass by punter Joey Mangili fell incomplete, and the Tigers took over at the UNC 36. Two plays later, Deshaun Watson found wide receiver Artavis Scott with a 35-yard scoring strike for 35-16 lead. The 35 points are the most allowed by UNC in any game this season. Watson already has a Dr Pepper ACC Championship Game-record 397 yards total offense and has thrown for three touchdowns while running for one more. The Tigers have scored touchdowns on their last three possessions.
UPDATE THE RECORD BOOK
The 108 rushing yards by Clemson's Deshaun Watson are the sixth-most in Dr Pepper ACC Championship Game history and the most by a quarterback. Watson has 362 yards total offense on the night.
Clemson claimed the biggest lead of the night on Wayne Gallman's 3-yard touchdown run that made it 28-16. The play capped a 13-play, 97-yard drive that ties for the longest in Dr Pepper ACC Championship Game history. The Tigers have 96- and 97-yard drives for touchdowns tonight. They are the first team in Championship Game history to post two scoring drives of more than 90 yards in the same game. Gallman has two touchdowns on the night -- one rushing and one receiving.
NUMBERS PILING UP
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson surpassed both the 200-yard passing mark and the 100-yard rushing mark on the Tigers' first possession of the second half. Watson has 232 yards and 101 rushing yards with 9:00 remaining in the third quarter and has completed 12 consecutive passes
Keyed by hard running from quarterback Marquise Williams and running back Elijah Hood. the Tar Heels drove to the Clemson 16 on the first offensive series of the second half. But linebacker B.J. Goodson tipped Williams' pass over the middle, and cornerback Cordrea Tankersley came up with the interception at the 4-yard line to kill the drive and keep the Tigers in front by a 21-16 score.
TWO MINUTE DRILL
Deshaun Watson, who ended the first half with close to 300 yards total offense, marched the Tigers to the UNC 1-yard line before Clemson took its final timeout with six second left in the first half. The Tigers opted to go for the touchdown, and came up big when Watson faked a handoff, appeared to have designs on keeping the ball himself, and then tossed to wide open tight end Jordan Leggett for the touchdown and a 21-16 Clemson lead at the half. Watson's 290 total yards at intermission -- 191 passing and 99 rushing -- are the most in Dr Pepper ACC Championship Game history by one player in a half. Watson has now accounted 39 touchdowns this season. UNC will receive the second-half kickoff.
GREEN IS OUT
Clemson junior safety T.J. Green was disqualified from the game after being called for targeting while making a hit on UNC's Ryan Switzer on a punt exchange. The Tar Heels were also called for a block in the back on the play, resulting in off-setting penalties. But even though the offsetting penalties resulted in a re-kick, Green's ejection from the game stood.
TAR HEELS CATCH A BREAK - AND THE LEAD
After stopping Clemson's Andy Teasdall attempting to run from punt formation, the Tar Heels took over at the Tigers' 34-yard line and marched in from there for the go-ahead touchdown. Elijah Hood's 12-yard run set UNC up, and Marquise Williams connected with Ryan Switzer on a 3-yard strike for the touchdown. The Tar Heels lead 16-14 with 3:52 to go in the opening half.
A WINNING GAMBLE
Facing fourth-and-4 at the UNC 38-yard line, Clemson opted to go for the first down. The move paid off when Deshaun Watson connected with Deon Cain for eight yards and a first down. That continued a Tiger drive that culminated in a touchdown on a 9-yard scoring dash by Watson, who currently leads all rushers in the game with 77 yards (and all passers with 119). Earlier in the drive, Watson had a 33-yard run for a first down -- the longest ever by a quarterback in the Dr Pepper ACC Championship Game and the longest by any player since 2010. Watson's TD run put the Tigers up 14-9 and capped a 96-play drive, which stands as Clemson's second-longest of the season and the second-longest in ACC Championship Game history. Watson has now been responsible for 38 touchdowns this season.
STEWART SHAKEN UP
The Tar Heels suffered a scare early in the second quarter when cornerback M.J. Stewart -- who leads the ACC in passes defended with 17 -- stayed down for a little over a minute after making a tackle at the Clemson 23-yard line. Stewart eventually walked off the field unassisted. UNC is already down one key member in its secondary after losing Sam Smiley to an Achilles injury last week against NC State.
North Carolina's 9-7 lead the end of the first quarter marked only the second time this season the unbeaten Tigers have trailed at the end of the opening period. Florida State grabbed a 7-3 lead in the first 15 minutes when those teams met at Clemson on Nov. 7.
After delivering two long touchdown runs from scrimmage in last week's win over NC State, UNC running back TJ Logan delivered again by taking a throwback pass from Marquise Williams, cutting to midfield and racing to the end zone to complete a 46-yard scoring play to put the Tar Heels back in front with 1:44 remaining in the first quarter. UNC's lead remained at 9-7 when the Tar Heels failed on a two-point conversion try.
After falling behind for the first time in four games (206 minutes and 14 seconds), Clemson answered with an eight play, 75-yard touchdown drive to go in front 7-3. Deshaun Watson connected with running back Wayne Gallman on a 16-yard pass for the score. The touchdown reception was Galllman's first of the season. Watson has now thrown 28 touchdown passes and is responsible for TDs on the year.
UNC starting quarterback Marquise Williams lost his helmet while being tackled on a second-down running play on UNC's opening offensive series, but backup Mitch Trubisky made the most of his one play in relief by connecting with Mack Hollins on a 16-yard pass for a first down. Trubisky threw touchdown passes in similar situations versus NC State last week and Virginia last season. The Tigers eventually stopped UNC on downs at the Clemson 12, forcing the Tar Heels to settle for a 3-0 lead on a 30-yard field goal by Nick Weiler.
TAR HEELS HOLD
As was their custom for much of the regular season, the Tar Heels bent defensively but didn't break on the game's opening series. Clemson drove to the UNC 30, but the game remained scoreless when placekicker Greg Huegel came up short on a 47-yard field goal attempt. It was Huegel's first miss this season against an ACC opponent.
SHOWING THEIR COLORS
North Carolina -- despite its designation as the "visiting" team -- is attired in its solid light blue home jerseys with white pants and white helmets. Clemson is attired in solid orange -- helmets, jerseys and pants.
The Tar Heels won the opening coin toss and elected to defer to the second half.