On a day when it seemed like very few things went right for Clemson football the Tigers found a way to beat an undermanned, but tough Syracuse Orange team 27-21 and extend their home winning streak to 38 games.
Dabo Swinney pulled all the right strings, whether it was calling timeouts near the end of the first half that ultimately mean a B.T. Potter field goal or pulling D.J. Uiagalelei in the third quarter in favor of true freshman Cade Klubnik.
Uiagalelei regressed to his 2021 form with wobbly passes, fumbles returned for touchdowns and bad interceptions.
Klubnik mostly handed off, but a worn-down Orange defense could do nothing to stop the Clemson running game combo of Will Shipley and Phil Mafah.
The Orange were their own worst enemy, losing their composure when they had Clemson stopped on Klubnik’s first drive and that ultimately resulted in a Clemson touchdown and momentum shift.
Good teams find a way to win, but there are still plenty of questions about this Clemson team despite their 8-0 record.
Post-game Dabo reiterated that D.J. was still the starter, still the team’s quarterback and that’s the right call in my mind.
Clemson football escapes Syracuse, but won’t survive without better play by D.J. Uiagalelei
On the other hand, there are games on the schedule that are clear losses if D.J. plays the way he did today.
I took exception with the notion that the Tigers were dominated at the line of scrimmage in the first half – Clemson had more total yards and Shipley and Mafah were monsters.
That domination and my favorite Dabo term – Functional Depth – led the Tigers to a dominant second half, outscoring the Orange 17-0, and a win against all odds.
Clemson finished with 292 rushing yards, as Shipley went for 172 and 27 carries and Mafah contributed 94 more on 18 totes.
Clemson has next week off before traveling to Notre Dame for another prime time game on November 5th.