Clemson routed UConn in a lopsided 44-7 win on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
While the Tigers accounted for 476 yards of total offense, it was the defense that rose to the occasion. Granted the Huskies aren’t world beaters on offense, but their only touchdown came on the first play of the game via a special teams breakdown.
There’s a reason why Clemson was favored by over 40 points coming into Saturday afternoon’s contest. And it wasn’t because of the team’s offensive prowess.
Clemson’s best source of offense on Saturday was its defense. In the first half alone, Clemson totaled six sacks and held the Huskies to -49 rushing yards. UConn finished the game with 99 yards of total offense and -17 rushing yards to show for it.
UConn proved to be a formidable opponent for much too long. This is a game in which Dabo Swinney quipped he would be fired if he lost. Naturally, UConn returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. That was just about all the scoring they would do.
The Huskies had as many yards of total offense as Brian Brewton’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which gave the Huskies an early 7-0 lead.
Clemson’s defense outpaced the team’s offense yet again. While the Tigers came away with 44 points on the afternoon, 16 of those came via B.T. Potter’s leg and a Will Swinney fake field goal.
UConn’s quarterbacks went 15-of-32 passing for 115 yards and threw two interceptions; Mario Goodrich, Jr. and Sheridan Jones came away with those takeaways for the Tigers.
It didn’t take long for Clemson to take control of the game, but the offense was never convincing. Sophomore quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, clearly still hobbled by his PCL strain, didn’t quite look like the signal-caller that had Clemson’s offense rolling in the right direction over the past two games.
Uiagalelei completed just 21-of-44 passes (48%) for 241 yards with a passing touchdown and an interception. He was supplanted by Taisun Phommanchanch multiple times during the first half. Phommanchanch led a scoring drive that culminated in his first career rushing touchdown.
While Phommanchanch accounted for 33 passing yards and 16 rushing yards, he was held out for the majority of Saturday’s contest. According to Swinney, Phommanchanch injured his shoulder and was left unable to throw. He was on the sidelines in street clothes, along with a sizable contingent of Clemson players. Justyn Ross injured his foot and was later sporting a boot.
Additionally, Xavier Thomas, Tré Williams, James Skalski and Sergio Allen were all injured during the course of Saturday’s game. None of them would return, as injuries continue to decimate Clemson’s depth chart.
Adding insult to injury, Clemson was already down three injured starters in Will Putnam, Joseph Ngata and Andrew Booth, Jr. While neither Will Shipley nor Kobe Pace made an appearance during Saturday’s landslide win, that likely more so had to do with the flow of Saturday’s game.
That gave way for Rencher and Phil Mafah to handle backfield duties. The duo combined for 86 yards on 31 carries after rushing for just a total of 15 yards on 13 carries in the first half. The Tigers ran the ball for just 120 yards on 42 carries, averaging a cool 3.1 yards per carry.
It was the second week in a row that Clemson scored 30+ points, even without a running game to speak of.
The offense scored 28 of the team’s 44 points. Coming into Saturday, UConn was allowing opposing teams to score 36 points per game. The Huskies also have the nation’s No. 119 scoring defense.
The Huskies currently are tied for the country’s No. 124 red zone defense. Coming into the game, UConn allowed opponents to score touchdowns on 38 of 40 attempts. They got their third red zone defensive stop of the season when Darien Rencher fumbled the ball in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter.
Granted, Hunter Helms and Billy Wiles took the majority of snaps under center for Clemson in the second half, but it’s not like the offense played much better in the first frame. Besides Uiagalelei’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Beaux Collins, the offense benefitted from a strong defensive performance and good field positioning.
Wiles, of course, connected with Jake Briningstool for their respective first-career touchdowns on a 25-yard pass to take a 44-7 lead late in the fourth quarter.
Another true freshman shared the spotlight with Briningstool. Dacari Collins caught six passes and had 97 receiving yards on the afternoon.
There’s not much to take away from this win that we didn’t already know and looking at the box score might give one a false sense of where the offense is and what they accomplished. However, the Tigers took care of business and got the job done on Saturday.
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