In the end, Clemson outlasted Syracuse 27-21 at home to extend the nation’s winning streak to 14 games with a late interception by RJ Mickens, but it was anything but easy.
In a game eerily reminiscent of the 2018 showdown between the same teams in the same stadium, the Tigers fought hard. What will make post-game headlines is the fact that quarterback DJ Uiagaleei was substituted shortly after the break in favor of rookie Cade Klubnik. The 2018 matchup featured a QB change due to an injury to Trevor Lawrence, and just like Chase Brice did that day, Klubnik was behind center when the Tigers came back to win the game.
In 2018, Clemson relied heavily on the racing game. Today, Klubnik threw just four passes and a massive 50-yard touchdown from Will Shipley that gave the Tigers the go-ahead.
Four turnovers for the Tigers, including two raw interceptions by Uiagalelei and a fumble returned for a touchdown, helped Syracuse build a 21-7 halftime lead. These errors explain a lot why Uiagalelei was banned.
With his back to the wall, Clemson’s standout defense reminded everyone why he remains one of the best units in the country, especially up front. You shouldn’t win a game with a -4 turnover margin. It’s a complete outlier that Clemson was able to do it. According to ESPN, teams -4 or worse in any FBS game this season went 0-17. But there was no panic in these Tigers, and they survived Orange.
Syracuse’s schedule wasn’t much to write about so far, but they struggled, even bending over to get the ball back with less than two minutes left with a chance to tie the game, but Dino Babers’ questionable delay in calling a time limit when the clock stopped after a fourth stop was messed up. What also remains unclear is what exactly happened to Sean Tucker’s touches in the third quarter when Clemson returned to take the lead. But while wide receiver Orande Gadsen played well, Garrett Schrader’s late pass forced triple coverage covering the WR standout effectively ended the game when he was caught by Mickens.
When asked in a field interview with ESPN, Dabo Swinney said he is confident Uiagalelei will continue to be the starter.
“This is our guy, this is our leader. You can write this now, DJ is our guy,” Swinney said.
But the Tigers have a week off now, and if there’s ever a time to make a permanent QB change, it’s likely to be now. The plot will likely continue to be something the team will have to work out if Uiagalelei struggles again.
But what matters today is that they won again – just like five seasons ago.