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October 9, 2010
Johnny White's name started with the fans in the end zone. Slowly it spread up each sideline until all of Kenan Stadium was ringing with the senior running back's name.With 19 seconds left in North Carolina's 21-16 win against Clemson, a chant of
Carolina's running game hadn't been much to cheer about most of the day, but White came up huge in the fourth quarter, turning into a one-man clock-killing machine and setting off the show of appreciation from the crowd.
"It was a great feeling," White said, "just to know the crowd's still there and still alive."
The win was the third in a row for UNC (3-2, 1-1 in the ACC) and first against Clemson since 2001.
It came despite still missing 11 players from the lineup due to the NCAA review. The latest victim was fullback Devon Ramsey, who was held out because of information gathered as part of the investigation. The Heels were also without starting linebacker Quan Sturdivant, who missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury.
"The things we can do with the amount of stuff that's going on around this program is amazing," said quarterback T.J. Yates, who had 164 passing yards and a touchdown.
White ran for 55 of his 89 rushing yards in the fourth quarter and added a team-high 90 receiving yards on six catches. That meant that he personally amassed 179 of UNC's 255 yards from scrimmage.
And for the first time in his career, White rushed for a pair of touchdowns in the same game, scoring on a 4-yard run in the first quarter and a 26-yard run in the fourth.
"He's an extremely explosive player," Yates said. "He can catch the ball out of the backfield, and he can run. He came up huge for us."
It looked as though White's second touchdown of the day, which came with a little less than seven minutes remaining, would seal the game.
The Tar Heels' scoring drive was their longest of the season time-wise, clocking in at nearly eight minutes.
But Clemson struck quickly, with quarterback Kyle Parker hitting Jaron Brown for a 74-yard score that pulled the Tigers within five with 5 ½ minutes to go.
The victim on that play was UNC safety Deunta Williams, who returned to the lineup after serving a four-game suspension to start the season. Perhaps inspired by the way fellow safety Da'Norris Searcy had an interception return for a touchdown a week earlier in his first game back, Williams tried to play the ball and came up empty.
"I'm gonna be honest - that was all me," Williams said. "I short-armed it. If I picked it off, coach would say, 'Great play' but when you don't, it's, 'Bad angle.' Sitting out makes you a little hungry."
Outside of that big play, it was another great day for the Carolina defense.
Clemson's only other touchdown came after a long punt return started the Tigers' drive at Carolina's 21-yard line in the third quarter. UNC held Clemson to 305 yards of total offense, including just 91 on the ground.
Offensively, Carolina's main success came by not making any mistakes.
The Tar Heels didn't turn the ball over at all, marking the first time since 1996 that they have had consecutive games without a turnover. They also went 4 for 4 on fourth-down conversions.
Keeping the ball - and keeping it safe - set the stage for them to close out the game in the final minutes.
Carolina had 99 yards of offense in the fourth quarter, and all nine plays on their drive after Clemson's late score put the ball in White's hands. The coaches even asked White what plays he wanted to run, and the offense went with those.
The biggest was a third-and-9 pass that White took 12 yards to keep the clock moving and the ball in Carolina's hands. The Heels would eventually punt the ball back to Clemson with 13 seconds to go, but the close-out work had been done.
And the satisfaction of putting away the team's third win in a row was the only thing that made White happier than hearing his name chanted throughout the stadium.
"It's a weight off our shoulders," White said. "Things are changing, and stuff is starting to go our way."