With quarterback DJ Uiagalelei shaky for most of the season, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney scoffed at the idea of making a change when the media brought up the idea.
But in the Tigers’ first two games in the ACC title game against North Carolina State totaling seven yards and two punts, Swinney did just that.
He replaced veteran Uiagalelei with much-hyped newcomer Cade Klubnik. Klubnick provided an instant spark to the offense and led Clemson to its seventh ACC title in eight seasons.
In the 39-10 victory, Klubnik went 20-of-24 for 279 yards, rushed for 30 yards and scored two total touchdowns.
With quarterback Uiagagelei off to a slow start, Clemson trailed 7-0 and looked lifeless — until Klubnik came to the rescue.
Clemson hit the field in stride and tied the game in Klubnick’s first series with him on the floor. After a UNC fumble, Clemson quickly took a 14-7 lead with 35 seconds left in the first quarter.
On Clemson’s ensuing possession, Klubnick made a 68-yard gain with Kortner’s beautiful deep play from the left sideline, setting himself up for a one-yard rushing score. ready.
Clemson then extended its lead with a field goal before halftime, turning an early 7-0 deficit into a 24-10 lead at halftime.
In the second half, the defense took over. UNC, led by its star freshman quarterback Drake Maye, drove deep into Clemson territory in the third quarter. But Maye made a terrible mistake, throwing the ball into the traffic on the third goal. Nate Wiggins picked up an errant pass and returned it for a 98-yard touchdown.
The defensive touchdown added to a lead that was too big to overcome as the Tigers took complete control of the game in the second half to clinch a blowout victory.
While returning to the top of the ACC after a poor performance last year is something Clemson will celebrate, it’s hard not to wonder if Swinney makes a quarterback switch at some point during the regular season. What will be the upper limit of .
Uiagalelei is in trouble in 2021 as Clemson lost three regular-season games for the first time since 2014. With Klubnik, a five-star recruit from Texas, joining the roster, many are wondering if the young QB will be able to rise above Uiagalelei’s depth chart — as Trevor Lawrence did to Kelly Bryant a few years ago. .
But that never materialized as Clemson kept winning games. Clemson is off to an 8-0 start for No. 1. No. 4 nationally when entering Notre Dame in November. 5 and was tied 35-14. Uiagalelei struggled in the game, but he wasn’t the only problem, as Clemson’s vaunted defensive line was crushed by Fighting Irish’s body.
At 8-1, Clemson remains within the national title and bounced back with wins over Louisville and Miami. With a 10-1 victory over rival South Carolina in the regular-season finale and a victory over UNC in the ACC championship game, the Tigers will secure the CFP spot.
But South Carolina reversed those plans with a 31-30 comeback win at Clemson, ruining Clemson’s CFP hopes. Uiagalelei was just 8-for-29 for 99 yards in the loss. It’s not very pretty.
Clemson’s offense looked more crisp Saturday night when Klubnick was officiated. North Carolina’s defense makes a lot of offense look good, but Clemson fans will wonder what happens if Swinney changes things up at some point during the season.
Instead of waiting for its Orange Bowl opponent, Clemson could have waited Sunday to see if it made the College Football Playoff.