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
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
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
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.