D.J. Uiagalelei benched in Clemson win, remains starter

CLEMSON, SC — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney made a quarterback change that helped spark a 27-21 win over Syracuse, but afterward he insisted DJ Uiagalelei remain Clemson’s starting QB.

Midway through the third quarter, Uiagalelei was down 21-10 and threw his second interception of the day – his third turnover overall – but Syracuse couldn’t convert it into points. On the Tigers’ subsequent drive, Swinney turned to true freshman Cade Klubnik in hopes of rekindling Clemson’s struggling offense.

“DJ is our starter. DJ is our leader. Nothing changed about that. He only had one of those days,” Swinney said. “He missed a few games but he deserved it [being the starter]. He has to clean up a few things he did today, but he’ll do it.”

Klubnik threw just two passes on the drive — one for 18 yards — but a personal foul on Syracuse linebacker Marlowe Wax for hitting Klubnik while bouncing out of bounds on a third-and-25 game lengthened the drive , and Phil Mafah punched in a 1-yard score.

Klubnik stayed in the game, and Clemson hit on two of his next three drives — a 50-yard run from Will Shipley and a 44-yard field goal — to complete the comeback, though the post-game topic clearly grabbed the headlines was that there is no controversy ahead.

“Absolutely not. Absolutely not. DJ is [the starter]”There’s no question Coach raised it with the rest of the team,” said offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter.

For the game, Klubnik was a 2-of-4 pass for 19 yards left with 15 yards rushing.

“Really proud of Cade for putting him in this situation and being ready. He gave us a little spark,” Swinney said. “We calmed down and paid a little more attention to the ball and found a way to defend ourselves.”

After an impressive goal drive to wrap up Clemson’s win over Georgia Tech in the opening game, Klubnik is in limited action just 5 of 13 passes.

“He’s our type. DJ will lead us and we stand behind him,” said Klubnik.

Uiagalelei struggled a lot last season, but Swinney spent the entire offseason defending his QB and insisted on being Clemson’s starter. Uiagalelei responded with a strong start to the 2022 season, and he had just two interceptions (with 17 TD passes) on Saturday, leading Swinney to routinely criticize fans and media who had speculated about a QB change.

“Everyone had their predictions as to when [Uiagalelei] wouldn’t be the starter anymore,” Swinney said just days before benching the QB. “People love to do stuff like that. It’s really embarrassing. But that’s the world we live in.”

After defeating the orange, Uiagalelei told reporters he agreed with the decision.

“If I were in his place, I would do the same,” he said. “You have to be able to get a spark. If you’re not playing well as a quarterback, then you need to be able to make that change. For me, statistics are not everything. My #1 stat is getting the W.”

Clemson moved to 8-0 with the win over Syracuse and all but finished off the ACC Atlantic Division. The Tigers have a week off before heading to Notre Dame on November 5.

https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/34854957/dj-uiagalelei-benched-clemson-win-remains-qb1-tigers D.J. Uiagalelei benched in Clemson win, remains starter

Emma Bowman

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