Clemson Football lost a heartbreaker on Saturday to Florida State. The Tigers led the majority of the game before Florida State tied it up and sent it to overtime.
Clemson played well in this game. There were some errors for which multiple parties, including the coaches, must share responsibility.
Starting quarterback Cade Klubnik got off to a rough start between the loss to Tennessee in the Orange Bowl last season, the disappointing loss to Duke, and a dreadful first half against Charleston Southern.
Since halftime against CSU, Klubnik has played good football. He isn’t perfect, but he cut way back on the catastrophic mistakes in the second half against CSU and the game against Florida Atlantic.
He played a good game Saturday against Florida State. Again, not perfect, but overall good. He did make mistakes.
Klubnik was hit hard while he wasn’t looking and fumbled the ball, which was returned by the Seminoles for a touchdown. Was that on Klubnik or the person who was supposed to pick up the blocker? Hard to say without knowing what the design of the play was.
Klubnik decided on an RPO to pull the ball out of Will Shipley’s hands and pass it to a wide receiver near the sideline when the team only needed one yard for a first down. The play was blown up and lost yardage. Was that a bad decision by Klubnik, or the right read based on what he was taught? Was the actual bad decision on the play-caller who gave him that pass option in the first place?
As usual, when Clemson loses these days, emotions can run high. Even though Klubnik played well, several fans are down on him. Several fans don’t see him as an upgrade over former starting quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, who transferred to Oregon State for this season.
I understand the frustration, but the circumstances surrounding Clemson’s situation with DJU at quarterback in 2021 & 2022 are considerably different than the situation with Klubnik at quarterback.
In 2021, Clemson’s offense was barely capable of moving the ball at all. The Tigers struggled to make anything happen on offense. Things started well in 2022 but once DJU struggled against Syracuse, he lost his confidence, and things unraveled from there.
Thus far, Klubnik hasn’t crumbled under the pressure. It appears that he has thrived on it. It would have been easy to give up after his disastrous Pick-six that gave CSU the lead. Instead, he manned up and cleaned up his game.
The Clemson Football offense plays much better with Cade Klubnik than it did with DJ Uiagalelei
This offense isn’t anywhere close to being as stagnant as the 2021 group. When looking at the first four games (in which Clemson went 2-2 in both 2021 and 2023):
Average points per game
- 2021: 21.75
- 2023: 42.3
- 2021: 69
- 2023: 110
Looking at DJU and Klubnik specifically through the first four games:
- DJU in 2021: 586
- Klubnik in 2023: 976
- DJU in 2021: 56.25%
- Klubnik in 2023: 66.2%
If you want the same comparison to see what DJ is doing in 2023 at Oregon State:
- DJU in 2023 at Oregon State: 828
- Klubnik in 2023 at Clemson: 976
- DJU in 2023 at Oregon State: 57.8%
- Klubnik in 2023 at Clemson: 66.2%
It is fair to point out that Clemson’s running backs and offensive lines have improved over the past two seasons. I will point out that while the wide receivers aren’t quite where we hoped they would be, they are better today than in 2021 as well.
It’s also fair to point out that Klubnik has a lot of room for improvement, but that’s what experience is for. I see the improvement while also acknowledging he is a work in progress.
I also saw improvement from DJU at one point as well, so the whole story is not written yet.
There are a lot of moving parts, but it just isn’t fair to label Cade Klubnik as DJU Part 2. The Clemson offense works much better with Klubnik behind center.