Good, Bad and Ugly
Well, where do we start. The Clemson Tigers welcomed the 1-8 UConn Huskies today on Military Appreciation Day. They sent them packing on a pretty much uneventful day. Honestly, the two most exciting plays of the game came from UConn kick returner Brian Brewton. Brewton returned the opening kick off 99 yards to put the Huskies on the board first. He later returned another kickoff late in the 4th quarter to the Clemson 12. He totaled 190 yards on 3 returns. E hauled in finough about UConn.
The Tiger defense dominated, as was expected. They held the Huskies to -17 yards rushing for the game, albeit having 6 sacks contributed to that total. To tell you how many players Clemson played today, the leading tackler was freshman S Andrew Mukuba with 4 tackles. In all, 29 players on defense recorded at least one tackle. The Tigers yield 99 total yards and zero touchdowns on defense. Yes, this was expected.
Offensively, the Tigers rested RBs Will Shipley and Kobe Pace, instead, choosing to rest them and rely on freshman Phil Mafah and senior Darien Rencher. The two combined for 31 rushes for 86 yards and a touchdown.
Freshmen wide receivers were the go-to guys today in the passing game. Dacari Collins and Beaux Collins picked up the slack as Joseph Ngate, Frank Ladson, and Braden Galloway were not available once again. Justyn Ross played sparingly, getting dinged up in the first quarter and not returning to the field. Dacari had six receptions for 97 yards while Beaux hauled in 5 passes for 40 yards and a TD. Another freshman, TE Jake Briningstool, caught two passes for 56 yards and a late touchdown from freshman quarterback Billy Wiles.
After 10 games, the offense still looks a little out of sync. However, looking a little deeper, there is a reason for this, multiple reasons actually. You can not ignore the injury angle. The Collins duo was on the field for 56 and 54 snaps. Dacari Collins played more on Saturday than he had combined in the last 9 games. Justyn Ross was in on 17 snaps before leaving with an ankle injury. He probably could have gone back in, but this was an opportunity for the youth to get time. RBs Will Shipley and Kobe Pace were dressed but both are nursing nagging injuries. Due to G Will Putnam out the last two games with an injury, freshman Mitchell Mayes finally got his chance. Clemson has for many years been able to play a ton of players almost every game but this year has been different.
Ugly is what ugly is. Against UConn, you’d think there would be no ugly. The opening kickoff hit the ugly nail right off the bat. The Huskies returned the opening kickoff, after the returner bobbled the ball at the goal line, to the house and with 15 seconds gone in the game, Clemson was down 7-0. To UConn. Down. 7-0. To make matters worse, the same returner had a 76 yard return late ion the 4th quarter.
UConn was 1-8 coming into this game and a 39.5 underdog. This was supposed to be a day where everyone played and the Tigers were going to roll. Looking at the stats, the Clemson offense rolled up 467 total yards, including 347 yards passing. Against an opponent like UConn, it should not have taken 57 passes to put the game away. QB DJ Uiagalelei had his good moments and his bad moments. He completed 21-44 against an outmanned Huskie defense. There were overthrows, there were dropped passes, and then there was just youth and inexperience turning the wrong way on routes. Not all the time, don;t get it wrong, but 10 games in, the Clemson offense is still out of sync.