It was not until Thursday before D.J. Uiagalelei found out he was going to start Saturday’s game against Boston College. The Clemson Tigers’ 34-28 victory at Memorial Stadium was barley an hour old when he found out he was going to be starting at Notre Dame next week.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney announced after the game regular starter Trevor Lawrence will not be available when the top-ranked Tigers travel to South Bend, Ind., next week to play No. 4 Notre Dame. Swinney said Lawrence would make it out of isolation on time, but for safety reasons, the junior will not be available for a second straight week.
Lawrence, of course, tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.
“It is the same mindset, like I had this week coming into it. I am going to get ready tomorrow and start watching some film,” Uiagalelei said. “Notre Dame is a great team. I don’t know too much about them, but I know they are a really great team, a top five team, and it should be a really good game.
“I am just going to try and get my mind right and get to know my keys well. I just have to come and learn the game plan and get to know them inside and out.”
Uiagalelei looked prepared against Boston College. The true freshman completed 30-of-41 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns in leading Clemson to its largest come-from-behind win at Death Valley.
The Tigers (7-0, 6-0 ACC) trailed the Eagles 28-10 with 1:02 to play in the first half following a C.J. Lewis 18-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Phil Jurkovec.
However, Uiagalelei did not panic. He led the Tigers on a 10-play, 42-yard drive in the half’s final 62 seconds to set up a 50-yard B.T. Potter field goal, which made the score 28-13 at the break.
Uiagalelei then started the second half by keeping the ball on a fourth-and-one play for a 30-yard touchdown, and then hit wide receiver Amari Rodgers with a back-shoulder pass for an 8-yard touchdown. Both scores pulled the Tigers with two points, 28-26, with 6:16 to play in the third quarter.
“It was cool to kind of start my first game in college today. It was kind crazy waking up and being like, ‘Damn! I am going to start today,” Uiagalelei said. “So, it was super cool to be able to have my parents there, but I think definitely, just being able to have a game under my belt going into Notre Dame, I think it is definitely going to help.”
On what turned out to be the game-winning drive, Uiagalelei completed all five of his passes for 30 yards, including an 11-yard pass on third-and-12 that set up a Travis Etienne six-yard run on fourth-and-one from the Clemson 45.
After Uiagalelei threw an 11-yard pass to Etienne, which was aided also by a 15-yard personal foul penalty, Etienne raced the football up the middle 17 yards for the winning touchdown. The Etienne touchdown came with 11:34 to play in the game.
“I knew we were going to come back,” Uiagalelei said. “I had great faith in our team and I think we all knew, as long as we executed and came out in the second half balling, we were going to give ourselves a chance to win the ball game.”
Which they did. Now, they will try to do it next week at Notre Dame. Kickoff for next week’s game is set for 7:30 p.m. and will be televised by NBC.
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