UNC's Johnny White (34) splits the Clemson defense to score the Tar Heels' first touchdown of the game. ROBERT WILLETT - email@example.com
CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina lost another player to an NCAA investigation on Saturday.
As long as the Tar Heels don't lose Johnny White, they'll be alright.
White rushed for two touchdowns and set up the third in UNC's unconventional 21-16 win over Clemson at Kenan Stadium.
It's the third straight win for the Tar Heels (3-2, 1-1 ACC), first in ACC play, after an 0-2 start.
The Heels sidelined another player, fullback Devon Ramsey, in the ongoing NCAA investigation — bringing the missing total to 11 — but they didn't need any extra help in their first meeting with Clemson since 2006.
UNC was out-gained by the Tigers (2-3, 0-2 ACC) and had more fourth-down conversions than third-down ones, but Clemson committed nine penalties and couldn't stop White.
White rushed for two touchdowns, 4 and 26 yards, and set up UNC's third touchdown with a 51-yard catch. The senior running back finished with 179 total yards, leading UNC in both rushing (22 carries, for 89 yards) and receiving (six catches, 90 yards).
The UNC defense, aided by the return of safety Deunta Williams from a four-game suspension, grounded Clemson's running game and made the plays it had to, when it had to.
The Tigers trailed 14-10 and had the ball on UNC's 29. Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker, who was indecisive all game, air-mailed a pass through the back of the end zone on third down.
On fourth down, Chandler Catanzaro, who made a 48-yarder earlier, missed from 42 yards.
UNC took over on its own 24-yard line and compiled a game-winning drive, capped by White's 26-yard touchdown, but sustained by two Clemson penalties, including one which wiped out an interception.
Clemson corner Marcus Gilchrist intercepted UNC quarterback T.J. Yates but Xavier Brewer held Jheranie Boyd on the play. Clemson forced another third down but Byron Maxwell held Shaun Draughn on a passing route.
On the same, wild drive, UNC converted twice on fourth-down. Yates had a successful sneak on fourth-and-1 from Clemson's 38 and Yates found White for a 12-yard pass on fourth-and-3 from Clemson's 30-yard line.
White ended any need for dramatic conversions with a 26-yard burst off the left side for a 21-10 advantage with 7:03 left in the game.
Clemson got one score back, a 74-yard strike from Parker to Jaron Brown — after Williams gambled on the interception — but it wasn't enough.
UNC got the ball back with 5:45 left and milked all but 13 seconds off the clock. Clemson's last-gasp wasn't even close and UNC officially improved to 3-2.