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Clemson Football

Lessons Learned, Future Bright

December 31, 2022
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During the Tigers' playoff runs from 2015-2020, Dabo Swinney’s teams squandered very few opportunities on their way to winning 79 of 86 contests and two national titles-- last night in the Orange Bowl-- they let what felt like a season’s worth slip through their fingers in a 31-14 loss to Tennessee.

Beginning with the fake field goal attempt on the Tigers’ opening drive to a trifecta of misses from the routinely solid B.T. Potter, time and time again, Clemson couldn’t get out of their own way. When the Tigers did move the ball-- which was most of the night, they simply couldn’t score.

The Tigers' run of missed opportunities in the first half-- ended at the Tennessee 13 without even a field goal attempt -- as the clock trickled away after Klubnik was tackled inbounds-- without a timeout-- during a complete mismanagement of the clock to end the half. It was a teachable moment for a young quarterback.

"We didn't take advantage of the red zone opportunities,” Swinney said about the offense's inability to consistently score after the game. “Really disappointed. You don't get any points for yards."

Perhaps one of the most incredible stats I’ve ever seen, the Tigers ran 57 plays in Tennessee territory and scored just one touchdown. I’ll leave the gameplan observations untouched until I get to watch the game a second time, but that stat is absurd.

The Tigers also dominated time-of-possession, having the football for 36:23 while racing to 484 total yards-- but a measly 14 points told the story.

Conversely, Tennessee's offense was efficient, minus their top weapons in injured quarterback Hendon Hooker and Biletnikoff Award winner Jalin Hyatt, who opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft. The Vols scored four touchdowns on just 20 plays on Clemson’s side of the field. 

To his credit, quarterback Cade Klubnik’s debut as the starting quarterback went fairly well. Sure, there were plenty of youthful mistakes, but having him throw the football over fifty times seems like quite the strategy. Klubnik finished the game 30-54 for 320 yards, along with two late-game interceptions. 

His 54 passes set an Orange Bowl record, surpassing Florida State’s Chris Weinke’s 51 passes against Oklahoma, led by quarterback Josh Heupel, in the Orange Bowl to end the 2000 season. The last time a Tiger quarterback threw the ball 50+ times was in Deshaun Watson’s final game, a 35-31 win over Alabama in the 2016 National Championship.

After the loss, Swinney had high praise for the true freshman.

"My man, Cade. He's not in here yet. You can easily see how talented he is and what a great player he is going to be,” Swinney noted. “He made a lot of great plays-- but he had some mistakes. Those are all things he will learn from."

When Klubnik finally made it to the press table, he was asked to rate his performance.

“Super proud of these guys," he said. "I think we gave it all we had to the very last play. There are a lot of plays that I want back, but super proud of how everybody competed.”

Sitting behind the microphone as the new face of Clemson’s program, Klubnik continued to expand on the guys who have been behind him throughout the year.

“Thankful for these seniors. There are so many guys that you don’t get to see that have an impact on me-- everybody-- Coach Swinney, Hunter Johnson, Ship (Will Shipley), KJ (Henry),” Klubnik noted. “There are so many times that I need help, and they are there for me. So thankful for these guys. I wish could have sent out these seniors with a win.”

After witnessing Klubnik’s first start and watching his grass-stained No. 2 jersey leaving the field, I was left with one thought, even after a loss-- the future at quarterback is bright.

Discussion from...

Lessons Learned, Future Bright

2,480 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 1 yr ago by 09Tiger
Tigers Rise
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He played well.

There were plenty of mistakes for sure but I thought the offense was more exciting with him in than it's been all season to be honest.
Barnyard Bird
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The most frustrating thing about last night's game is that Shipley and Mafah were underutilized in the rushing game. I expected the offense to run through Cade but the anchored by the two backs.

Why those guys didn't have 15 carriers each at a minimum, I don't understand. Would have shortened the game and taken pressure off Cade. Just my thoughts.
09Tiger
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Tough loss boys. The season ends with no wins against P5 teams outside of the ACC-- not sure how to take that.

11 wins is great- there is no doubt about that, but given the past few years it feels like things are slipping just a bit. The defense has some issues on the back end. Elite corner play? Didn't see it all year.

But I agree about Cade-- he feels like he's got the goods.
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