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Clemson gets its kicks at expense of North Carolina

Sep 23, 2006 - 7:26 PM CLEMSON, South Carolina (Ticker) -- There was nothing wrong with Clemson's kicking game, or any other part of its game, for that matter.

James Davis ran for 95 yards and four touchdowns in less than three quarters and Jad Dean did not miss a kick as No. 19 Clemson asserted itself with a 52-7 Atlantic Coast Conference trampling of North Carolina.

True freshman C.J. Spiller ran for two scores and Reggie Merriweather added another on the ground for the Tigers (3-1, 2-1 ACC Atlantic), who had none of the kicking adventures that had been a major issue in their last two games.

Two weeks ago, Clemson lost a 34-33 heartbreaker to Boston College when Dean had an extra point blocked in double overtime. Last week, coach Tommy Bowden virtually abandoned the kicking game midway through a 27-20 win at Florida State after Dean had a field goal and extra point blocked, leading to nine points for the opposition.

There were no such problems against the Tar Heels (1-3, 0-2 Coastal), who seemed very willing to give Dean as many chances as he needed to rediscover his rhythm. Dean converted all seven extra points and added a 42-yard field goal late in the third period.

"Everything in practice this week pointed to us having a good week," Bowden said.

"We knew Clemson was a very good football team," North Carolina coach John Bunting said. "They played very well. They took it to us."

In the second half, Clemson went to its second- and third-string players, affording Davis a well-earned rest.

The ACC Freshman of the Year last season, Davis carried 15 times, including TD runs of one, one and 10 yards in the first half and two yards to cap the opening drive of the third quarter.

"Our offensive line really responded today and made some statements," Bowden said. "That's a good sign that they can come out after I challenged them and showed some pride."

On Clemson's first possession, Davis ran for 49 yards, banging in with 7:55 left in the first quarter. Less than four minutes later, Spiller added his first collegiate rushing TD, a seven-yard scamper up the middle.

"That really set the tone for our offense," Davis said. "It showed we could move the ball and do good things on offense."

The ensuing kickoff was fumbled by UNC sophomore Brandon Tate and recovered by freshman Crezdon Butler at the 8. The Tar Heels forced a fourth down from the 1, but Davis went in again with 2:10 left in the period, and the rout was on.

After Merriweather's one-yard TD made it 28-0 with 9:46 left in the first half, UNC switched from Cam Sexton to Joe Dailey at quarterback. But the Tar Heels went three-and-out, and Davis capped a 72-yard drive with his third TD with 1:40 to go.

"I have to give credit to my offensive line," Davis said. "They opened up holes for me and allowed me to gain big yards the entire game. Reggie Merriweather and C.J. Spiller did a great job as well. Having those two other guys keeps all of us fresh for the entire day."

Davis and Spiller added scoring runs on Clemson's first two possessions of the second half. Spiller had 58 yards on 12 carries and Merriweather 43 on eight for the Tigers, who totaled 504 yards, including 324 on the ground.

"Three hundred yards on the ground and over 500 yards total offense really says a lot about our team," Clemson center Dustin Fry said. "We were prepared to play from the start."

Sexton returned shortly after his benching and in the fourth quarter scrambled in from four yards out to avert the shutout. He completed just 7-of-22 passes for 96 yards and an interception.

"I'm still very confident in Joe," Bunting said. "When things got out of hand, we decided to go with Cam and let him go through all those struggles."

Bowden improved to 5-1 vs. UNC while at Clemson. The schools were meeting for the first time since the ACC expanded in 2004.

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