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Cade Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC for ACC title

By STEVE REED

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Clemson Tigers are back in a familiar spot — atop the Atlantic Coast Conference.

And they may have found a quarterback to keep them there.

Freshman Cade Klubnik came off the bench to complete 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for a score to lead No. 10 Clemson to the ACC championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown as the Tigers won their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney’s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes.

“You got a glimpse of our future at Clemson,” Swinney said about Klubnik. “I’m excited to see him continue to build on it and gain momentum going into next year.”

Swinney said Klubnik will start in the upcoming Orange Bowl.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter DJ Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime. Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

Swinney said he informed Klubnik on Sunday that he planned to put him in the game in the third series regardless of what happened.

That surprised North Carolina coach Mack Brown, who said he didn’t expect Clemson to switch QBs mid-game and it threw his team off. UNC had planned to stack the box and make Uiagalelei beat them through the air.

“Cade had played very little all year and when he went into play against Notre Dame he threw an interception, so we totally thought we would see DJ because they hadn’t changed all year,” Brown said.

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