CLEMSON, South Carolina — North Carolina coach Larry Fedora was talking about how his offensive line struggled in the Tar Heels 50-35 loss to Clemson on Saturday night. Then he paused.
"They're not the only problem," Fedora said. "We have a lot of problems."
The Tar Heels (2-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) again saw an opponent break records. This time it was Clemson freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson who set a school record with six touchdown passes and threw for 435 yards. The last quarterback to throw six TDs on North Carolina was Doug Flutie for Boston College in 1984.
Fedora's game plan was to stop the run and see if Watson could beat the Tar Heels with his arm. Clemson (2-2, 1-1) ran for just 92 yards. But Watson was able to find open receivers for big gains. Watson's second play was a 74-yard TD pass to Germone Hopper. He also threw touchdown passes of 50, 33, 33, 24 and 5 yards.
North Carolina isn't the last team Watson will beat with his arm. "The kid's a good player. He's going to be really good," he said.
"I didn't foresee we would just let people loose," Fedora said.
Fedora was a bit more optimistic than he was last week, after the Tar Heels gave up school records with 70 points and 789 yards in a loss to East Carolina. This week, the Tar Heels tried to set a school record with 15 penalties, one off the school record, losing 130 yards, which was 20 yards away from their worst game ever.
"We've got to see much more consistency," Fedora said.
Watson was the first true freshman to start for Clemson in 20 years. He showed no fear, completing 27 of his 36 passes. He also ran 11 times for 28 yards.
Watson played on Sept. 27 last year too, leading his high school in Gainesville, Georgia, to a 41-point win. He enrolled at Clemson in January and coach Dabo Swinney made sure he got significant playing time in the Tigers' first three games. He took the majority of the snaps in last week's overtime loss to No. 1 Florida State and Swinney tapped him as the starter before the team left Tallahassee.
Offensive coordinator Chad Morris is keeping his usually expansive playbook simple for Watson. His instructions are for the freshman to go out and make things happen and don't be afraid to throw the deep ball.
"I'm not going to screw him up. We're going to do what he can do. And the thing he can do is play fast. He can make plays for you," Morris said.
Mike Williams had six catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns for Clemson, which has scored 49 or more points in five of its last 10 ACC games.
Artavis Scott had eight catches for 66 yards and a touchdown and Hopper caught three passes for 139 yards and two TDs.
Ammon Lakip hit a 27-yard and a 45-yard field goal. Swinney stuck with the junior kicker after he missed two field goals in last week's loss.
Watson took over as starter from senior Cole Stout. Swinney promised Stout would play, but he took just four snaps before Morris asked him to go back in late in the fourth quarter because the game seemed out of hand and he wanted to rest Watson, who was just 21 yards from beating Tajh Boyd's single game passing record.
After the game, Swinney was asked who his starter would be next week against North Carolina State.
"Really?" he said, his eyes growing wide.