When D.J. Uiagalelei went back on the filed at Memorial Stadium following last Saturday’s win over Boston College, no one in the Clemson locker room was surprised.
“D.J has always done a good job handling his business. He is a hard worker. He is one of the hardest workers we got,” center Hunter Rayburn said.
Uiagalelei spent more than an hour throwing the football to a team manager, as he went back and worked over and over again, all the bad throws he made just a few hours before. It was way after 1 a.m. before he finally called it a night.
“He is out here every day doing what he can to be as successful as he can be, in terms of helping us be successful,” Rayburn said.
And his hard work is starting to pay off, even if the fans do not necessarily see it.
“I just thought his mindset, what he did with his legs, how he managed the pocket, how he took care of the football. I just thought it was just a really good step forward for us,” head coach Dabo Swinney said.
Uiagalelei finished the BC game 13-for-28 for 207 yards. It was not a great night throwing the football, but as Swinney said, he took care of the ball. He did not try and force anything and he looked confident and comfortable in the pocket, going back to how he looked in the fourth quarter and overtime against NC State.
“How he managed the pocket, that is the best he has been in the pocket. He really did some good things there,” the Clemson coach said. “He made good decisions. He took care of the football. So, I am really proud of him.
“He missed some throws still. He missed a couple of touchdown opportunities, and then we had a couple that were dropped as well. We still have a lot of work to do in order to get really dialed in where we can be the type of offense we want to be.”
And what the Tigers want to be is explosive and balanced. Two things they finally showed they can be in the BC game.
Kobe Pace had a 59-yard touchdown run. Phil Mafah had a 28-yard gallop, while Uiagalelei completed passes of 54 and 33 yards to Joseph Ngata and Pace.
Clemson (3-2, 2-1 ACC) finished the night with 231 yards on the ground and 207 through the air.
Swinney contributed the more balanced offense to the way his quarterback played, especially in the running game. Uiagalelei gained 59 yards on 11 true carries.
“He has made his presence known in the run game,” Swinney said. “Actually, he still left a little bit out there. There were a couple of plays that I thought he still had a little bit more to get. But he is making his presence known in the run game, which is really good. He is starting to really hit his stride there. He is a problem. That is a big strong man that is hard to get down.
“Getting the run game going, creates some things in the passing game and that is what we have not been able to do is run the football. A lot of that has been miscommunication. A lot of fundamental stuff, honestly. We really played well up front (against BC). I can’t tell you how proud I was of those guys.”
Clemson hopes Uiagalelei and the offense continues to improve when they visit Syracuse next Friday at the Carrier Dome.
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