Sept. 23, 2006
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CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -With Clemson’s greatest football team watching, the 19th-ranked Tigers showed power rushing and teeth-rattling defense never go out of style.
James Davis had four of Clemson’s seven rushing touchdowns and the Tigers held North Carolina to 150 total yards in a 52-7 victory Saturday – a day the school honored its 1981 national title team.
“We’re trying to be like the 1981 team,” Davis said. “We want to do things the way they did and go after what they have. We want to make the statement that we want to be the team to win the championship.”
That group 25 years ago won with rushers like Kevin Mack and crunching defenders like safety Terry Kinard.
Davis and the Tigers (3-1, 2-1 ACC) used their long-ago gameplan to easily put away North Carolina (1-3, 0-2).
“It was sure nice not to disappoint” the 1981 champions, Clemson center Dustin Fry said.
Davis, a sophomore who tops the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing, led the way with scoring runs of 1, 1, 10 and 2 yards. C.J. Spiller, a freshman, added TD runs of 7 and 2 yards, while Reggie Merriwether had a 1-yard touchdown run against the Tar Heels (1-3, 0-1).
Davis carried for 49 yards total on Clemson’s opening drive, scoring from a yard out to finish things. Two series later, after Clemson’s Crezdon Butler recovered Brandon Tate’s fumbled kickoff return on North Carolina’s 9, Davis was at it again, scoring from a yard away as Clemson led 21-0 in the first quarter.
Not that the Tigers needed more points the way their defense took over. The Tar Heels and freshman quarterback Cam Sexton managed only three first downs and 2 yards rushing the first half.
Sexton broke the shutout with a 4-yard keeper with 10:30 left in the game. By that time, things were out of North Carolina’s control, and it endured its worst loss since a 59-7 defeat by Maryland four years ago.
“Sometimes you lose games and you can find some positives to build on,” Sexton said. “I don’t know. That’s a tough pill to swallow right there. We didn’t expect that.”
Davis had 95 yards on 15 carries, and Clemson ended with 324 yards on the ground, the first time it cracked the 300-yard rushing mark since a 59-31 win over Duke in 2001. The Tigers’ rushing TDs were well off the school record of 11, set against Presbyterian in 1948.
Davis did not play much after his fourth touchdown and never got the chance to match Clemson’s single-game touchdown record of five set by Stumpy Banks (1917 vs. Furman) and tied by Maxcey Welch (1930 vs. Newberry).
Clemson was back home from a 27-20 victory at Florida State, the school’s first in Tallahassee since 1989. The Death Valley stands were filled with former Tiger greats to honor their 12-0 season and undisputed national crown.
The Tigers have a history, however, of playing down to opponents it’s expected to beat – the Tigers followed a 2004 win at Miami with a loss at Duke. North Carolina had hoped its first road trip of the season might be a chance to escape losses to Rutgers and Virginia Tech, and a narrow 45-42 victory last week against Division I-AA Furman.
But the Tigers would not allow their party to be spoiled.
“This kind of shows that we really are a different team than we were in the past,” Fry said. “We can keep our cylinders rolling, keep everything going and not have a collapse.”
The 1981 team, brought on the field at halftime to the cheers of the crowd, returned to campus Friday night for a reunion dinner. The team was inducted into Memorial Stadium’s “Ring of Honor,” joining individual honorees Kinard and linebacker Jeff “The Judge” Davis on the stadium’s upper-deck facing.
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