After a rough start to the season, the Tigers settled in and finished it up by playing some of their best ball, winning their final six games.
Having to replace both coordinators and other assistant coaches all at once, plus all the injuries, made prepping for the bowl game that much harder. Everyone was looking to see if there would be a drop off and, if so, how much.
However, the Tigers were able to improve to 10-3 on the season with a thrilling 20-13 Cheez-It Bowl win over the Cyclones after a late fourth down stop by the defense. It was a game that had a lot of ups and downs, just like this entire season, but saw the team not give up and even some unexpected players step up when it counted.
- The offense come out with a little more of a fast paced or hurry up style of scheme. They appeared to try and establish the run, like they did over the last half of the season. That seemed to take some of the pressure off of quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who was not perfect but did have one of, if not, his best games of the season passing, going 21-32 for 187 yards. He could have had more if it wasn’t for more drops by his receivers. His worst play came when he threw his lone interception. A turnover that put the defense in a bad spot deep in their own territory.
- The Tiger defense also came out with a strong stand (a three and out) but then they seemed to go into a bend but don’t break style over rest of the first half. For the most part, it worked out, allowing just one field goal (22 yds) while forcing another attempt that the Cyclones kicker missed (43 yds).
- Was truly disappointed seeing James Skalski go down to a foot injury in the second quarter. What made it worse was it was a non-contact injury suffered while chasing the Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy on a scramble he had that ended with a first down.
- Something that made this defensive effort stand out even more was the fact that Clemson didn’t just lose Skalski and Andrew Booth Jr. to injuries during the game but they were also without Nolan Turner (foot) and Baylon Spector (broken hand). Yet they still held this team that came in averaging 31 points a game to just 13 points.
- While we are talking about injuries. This was another game that saw the Tigers begin with 28 scholarship players out and that speaks volumes to the fact that this team, when they could have used it as an excuse to not play, still suited up and went into battle because of the culture Swinney has instilled.
- BT Potter continued to show why fans were so happy to find out he was coming back with two field goals in the first half (23 yds, 51 yds) to give them a 6-3 lead at the half. He did miss his last one of the half (36 yds) that could have extended that lead.
- After seeing the Clemson offense suffer from takeaways this year that ended in points, it felt good to see the defense get one of their own in the third quarter. It came on a crazy double-batted ball that ended up in Mario Goodrich’s hands. Goodrich then returned it to the house from 18 yards out. Ironically, this score would also be the difference in the game.
- It was obvious throughout the game that Clemson’s new offensive coordinator was not comfortable with Uiagalelei throwing deep passes. It will be interesting to see how much injuries ended up playing a part in that now that the season is officially over.
- Will Shipley, Kobe Pace, nor Phil Mafah had a 100 yard game on the ground but all showed that they are going to be forces to be reckoned with for years to come. Shipley passed CJ Spiller with his 11th touchdown by a Clemson freshman running back and ended this season just two behind the record holder, Travis Etienne, who had 13 in 2017. On the night Shipley had 61 total yards on 18 carries while Pace ran for 51 yards on 12 carries and Mafah had seven yards on two carries.
- Not only did the win help the Tigers become one of only three schools to have 11 straight 10 win seasons (Alabama 2008-present and Florida State from 1987-2000) but it also helped Swinney become the sixth quickest college head coach to get 150 wins in his career.
- Keith Maguire stepped up big with his play after being thrust into action due to injuries. Him, along with Trenton Simpson, Jeremiah Trotter Jr and Barrett Carter should give fans a lot of reason to be excited over how good these linebackers can be in years to come.
- Robbie Caldwell will go out a winner as it was announced that he’s officially moving out of his on field role with the Tigers as OL coach.
- Now Clemson will sit back and wait to find out what players will return and which ones will not.
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