ATLANTA — Georgia Tech was in this thing. And then Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, who had been uneven in the beginning of what he's hoping is his redemption season, turned in the play that changed the game.
Georgia Tech trailed 17-10 late in the th UNC vs. Duke Rivalry Gear ird quarter Monday night, and there was upset potential in the air at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Yellow Jackets had begun to show life on offense, and they were stifling No. 4 Clemson's offense. On a third-and-6, they brought pressure and had the former five-star dead to rights. Except he wasn’t.
Uiagalelei spun away from the rush and shoved a desperate lateral to running back Will Shipley as he was going down. Shipley picked up the first down, Clemson drove for a touchdown, and the Tigers could breathe a sigh of relief that this one wouldn’t come down to the final seconds like last year’s win over Tech.
"That's a play we didn't make last year," Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said in his press conference shortly after celebrating on the field in front of the Clemson faithful with a leather helmet atop his head. "(Uiagalelei) is creative. That was a huge play, and those are the plays you have to make. Not everything goes according to script."
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The final was Clemson 41, Georgia Tech 10, which was the script. But how it came about was not. Clemson’s offensive shortcomings — an inconsistent line, an unsteady quarterback and receivers who have trouble getting open — were all on display for the first 2 1/2 quarters against a Georgia Tech team that is expected to be near the basement in the ACC. And given what we saw earlier in the weekend, at 17-10 late in the third, a nail-biting finish was not off the table.
But Uiagalelei Angelo State Rams shirt made the improvisational play to Shipley that swung the momentum and the Tigers exerted their superiority in the fourth quarter to close it out.
"I just saw Shipley there and I pitched it to him and he made a great run," Uiagalelei said. "We went down and scored a touchdown. It was a big play for us."
Clemson came into the season ranked fourth, which, if you believe the preseason polls, means it is considered a Florida vs. Georgia Rivalry shirt playoff team. Of course, the Tigers were considered a playoff team last preseason as well, until its offense collapsed and they lost three regular-season games. Clemson did not make the ACC championship game after winning it six times in a row. The 10-3 finish was a step down from the sport's penthouse, and the offseason was about getting the offense fixed after finishing 99th in the FBS in yardage and 82nd in scoring.
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"We need to have a better passing offense and a better passing defense, and I saw both those things tonight," Swinney said.
Uiagelelei took the brunt of the criticism last season, but the offensive line also struggled mightily and the receivers were a far cry from Clemson’s national title teams. When five-star freshman Cade Klubnik enrolled early, there was expected to be competition at the QB spot. But Swinney made it clear that Uiagalelei was his man, and Monday night was his first chance to show things would be different in 2022.
He finished 19 of 32 for 210 yards and a touchdown, with three sacks and a lost fumble.
Uiagalelei was shaky at the start. He was unable to handle a high snap that killed the first drive, and he fumbled on a designed QB run on the second. He held the ball in the pocket and played tentatively.
After a blocked punt set up the Tigers at the Georgia Tech 5, it took Clemson four running plays to get in the end zone. The offense was limited to 50 yards on its first 17 plays.
"It was sort of the perfect scenario tonight," Swinney said. "DJ had to fight throu Antelope Valley College Jerseys gh some adversity, and he made some great plays with his feet."
With 5:15 to play and the game in hand, Swinney went to his five-star freshman for one drive. And Klubnik made the most of it. His first throw was a contested incompletion along the sideline, his second a pretty 20-yard completion on a rollout. He showed the ability to run some read-option, keeping on a third down to extend the drive. He capped it with another rollout and a 3-yard touchdown toss to Will Taylor.
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He was 4 for 6 for 49 yards on the drive and displayed the attributes that will have Clemson fans pin College Lacrosse Shirts ing for the backup if Uiagalelei slips back into 2021 form.
For now, it is clear there is no competition. T College Halloween Costumes his is not a Michigan or Ole Miss situation. Swinney was happy to get Klubnik in when the game was decided, and with two non-conference walkovers on deck in Furman and Louisiana Tech, Swinney is eager to get him more time with the second unit.
And Uiagalelei made it NCAA Underwear clear that he's excited for the freshman.
"He did what he does in practice," Uiagalelei said. "He's out there playing with a lot of confide WVU vs. Pitt Rivalry Jerseys nce. It’s good to see. He’s a great player."