Clemson Football had high hopes for the 2023 season, but those aspirations took a nose dive Monday night.
Clemson was defeated by the Duke Blue Devils 28-7. The Tigers couldn’t overcome their mistakes, while Duke quarterback Riley Leonard made plays when they were needed.
The Clemson offense started slow with a punt on the first drive. Duke was able to drive down the field and kick a field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
The offense made more progress on the second drive before stalling. Robert Gunn’s first field goal attempt was blocked to end the drive with no points.
After Duke added a second field goal, the Tigers got a turnover on a muffed punt by the Blue Devils. The offense scored on a short reception by Will Shipley. The extra point gave Clemson the 7-6 lead.
After forcing a punt, the Tigers were pinned deep. Jake Briningstool’s first reception gave the offense some running room, but the offense stalled again following a sack of Klubnik.
A busted coverage by Clemson allowed Duke to move the ball to midfield. A few completions by Riley Leonard got the Devils in field goal range. The Tigers had a chance to get Duke off the field, but Riley converted a fourth down to continue the drive.
Just when it looked like Duke would at least get a field goal, the Devils coughed up the ball and Andrew Mukuba recovered it for the turnover to preserve the halftime lead.
Duke received the ball to start the second half and they quickly moved the ball into Clemson territory. A great run by Leonard took the ball to the house and gave Duke a 13-7 lead.
Clemson responded with the run game, and quickly moved the ball to the 1-yard line before a Blake Miller false start moved them back. A slip by Klubnik moved them back to the 11-yard line. The referee signaled that the field goal attempt was tipped, and Duke was credited with their second blocked field goal of the night.
Clemson forced a three-and-out by the Duke offense and again began driving the ball. This time Klubnik and Shipley fumbled on a handoff and Duke recovered the ball.
After another Devil three-and-out, the Tigers again drove into the red zone. Once again, the Tigers shot themselves in the foot with a fumble by Mafah. Duke scooped up the ball and returned it to the Clemson 33-yard line.
Duke took advantage of the great field position and scored the touchdown. The Blue Devils went for two and converted to lead 21-7.
Clemson faced a fourth down, and Klubnik scrambled but started his slide short. He was hit as he slid, but because the play is over when the quarterback begins his slide, the Tigers turned the ball over. The late hit and targeting were enforced on the following drive.
After another Duke three-and-out, the Tigers started their drive at their own 25-yard line. The drive ended quickly when a tipped pass was intercepted.
At this point, it looked like Clemson gave up. Duke scored another touchdown to push the lead to 28-7.
A final turnover on downs was the final nail in the coffin. Duke took the victory formation a few times to end the game.
Offensive mistakes were the story of the night, but Clemson had an all-around bad game on defense and special teams as well. Duke won the game outright despite being a 13-point underdog. The total was under the 55.5 points.