Gutting out a sprained knee, D.J. Uiagalelei led a fourth-quarter comeback in Clemson’s win over Louisville on Saturday. Now, for the first time in two months, the Tigers are stepping out of ACC play with a game against a 1-8 UConn team looming this weekend.
But don’t expect Clemson to take it easy with its starting quarterback Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
“If we lose this game, there will be a new head coach here,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney quipped Sunday.
Swinney said there are no plans to rest Uiagalelei when the Huskies come to town. The Tigers still want to have their packages for backup Taisun Phommachanh, Swinney said, but they’re planning to start Uiagalelei like usual.
“D.J. is good to go. It is what it is,” Swinney said. “Hopefully, for sure, we want to continue to use Taisun and complement the offense, and we’ll do that. But we don’t have intentions at all of going into a game and saying we’re not going to play guys or anything like that.
“We’re going in with a best-of-one mindset and let’s go play our best game. That’s just the way we look at it. And if you don’t look at it that way, you send the wrong message to your team.”
Uiagalelei pieced together perhaps his best all-around performance of the season with a season-high 220 passing yards on 18 completions and two touchdown passes against Louisville. He accounted for three total touchdowns despite showing some visible discomfort at times during the second half.
Uiagalalei went into the medical tent on the Tigers’ sideline once he sprained his non-plant knee after carrying out a handoff midway through the second quarter, but he didn’t even miss a full series before returning. Sporting a brace on his right knee, Uiagalelei finished the game and scored the go-ahead touchdown on an 8-yard run, which capped a nine-play, 57-yard drive with 4 minutes, 12 seconds remaining.
While Uiagalelei was out, Phommachanh had a 26-yard run to help set up one of B.T. Potter’s three field goals. Clemson also brought Phommachanh into the game again early during its go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter to throw a shot pass to Justyn Ross down the sideline. It fell incomplete, but Louisville was flagged for pass interference on the play.
Phommachanh only attempted one other pass in the game, which was also incomplete. He’s 10 of 18 passing for 98 yards in his limited playing time this season.
“He did a good job for us, but that was just something that, I mean, he can throw the ball,” Swinney said. “We wanted to make sure we use him in that way and make them have to play honest defense there so that we can keep what we need in the run game in that personnel.”
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