CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Freshman Deshaun Watson threw for 435 yards and set a school record with six touchdown passes in his first ever start to lead Clemson to a 50-35 win over North Carolina on Saturday night.
The Tigers (2-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) decided Watson's time had come, and the 19-year-old didn't shrink in the spotlight. Watson completed 27 of his 36 passes. He also ran 11 times for 28 yards.
Watson's six TDs tied the ACC record and only Tajh Boyd has thrown for more yards in a game for Clemson.
North Carolina (2-2, 0-1) gave up 528 yards, and has allowed its opponent to gain more than 500 yards in the past three games.
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.
Watson was the first true freshman to start for Clemson in 20 years and coach Dabo Swinney said he earned it by being the most special player he's seen in his seven years leading the Tigers. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris still isn't opening his whole playbook for his young starter, but he is letting him throw deep. On Watson's second play he threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Germone Hopper.
Watson also had a 50-yard TD pass to Hopper in the second quarter, waiting in the pocket until the last moment to drop the pass right into the receiver's hands. Clemson gained 218 yards in the first half, with Watson's two long passes accounting for more than half that total.
In the second half, Watson had two 33-yard touchdown passes and a 24-yard scoring throw before tight end Jordan Leggett jumped high in the end zone to pull in the freshman's record-breaking TD pass.
Clemson needed Watson's passing because the Tigers gained only 92 yards on the ground.
Artavis Scott had eight catches for 66 yards and a touchdown and Hopper caught three passes for 139 yards and 2 TDs.
North Carolina remains in a tailspin, a week after allowing the most yards, points and first downs in school history. Saturday, the Tar Heels had 15 penalties, one off the school record, for 130 yards, which was 20 yards away from their worst game.