Clemson heads into the break holding onto a commanding 30-7 lead, but it certainly wasn’t all pretty.
The Tigers punted just once in the first half, but an offense that had taken a step forward took a backseat to another standout defensive performance. Clemson’s defense accounted for six sacks and a Mario Goodrich, Jr. interception.
They held the Huskies to -49 rushing yards on 14 attempts. UConn had 41 yards of total offense in the first half. Although Clemson wasn’t much better offensively. The Tigers had 287 yards of offense, but it came on a total of 55 first-half offensive plays.
The Tigers were able to extend their lead to 23 after D.J. Uiagalelei connected with his high school teammate and newfound favorite target, Beaux Collins, for a 32-yard touchdown.
Of course, the Tigers weren’t without their faults. They gave up a special teams touchdown and Uiagalelei threw his seventh interception of the season. And on top of that, Justyn Ross left the game injured.
The redshirt junior receiver returned to the sidelines on crutches and in street clothes, sporting a boot on his injured left foot. That wasn’t the only injury, though. The cart was brought out for sophomore linebacker Sergio Allen, who was injured on a kickoff midway through the second quarter.
Uiagalelei, clearly hampered by his PCL strain, went just 17-of-37 with 217 yards passing. He completed just 46% of his passes.
Clemson was able to move the ball down the field, but it didn’t come at will. Instead, it was the B.T. Potter show. Clemson’s senior kicker went 3-of-3 on field goals in the first half, accounting for 9 of the team’s 30 first-half points.
Throughout the first half, Clemson experimented with different offensive line combinations. Marcus Tate shifted out to his natural position (left tackle), while Bryn Tucker took over the left guard position and Mitchell Mayes got some work on the right side.
Though they were both dressed and seemingly healthy, neither Will Shipley nor Kobe Pace saw any action throughout Saturday’s opening frame. It was Phil Mafah and Darien Rencher who took the reins of the backfield for the Tigers, combining for 15 yards on 13 carries.
Additionally, Taisun Phommachanch scored his first-career rushing touchdown to give Clemson a 17-7 lead. Phommachanch led the rushing attack with 16 yards on three carries. He also completed one pass for 33 yards to Dacari Collins, setting up his own score.
Clemson’s afternoon got off to a rude awakening after UConn returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. After dropping the kick on the ground, UConn’s kick returner, Brian Brewton, picked up the football and scampered 99 yards for a touchdown.
Even though the Huskies jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead, the Tigers were able to take control of the game. That was after Will Swinney perfectly executed a fake field goal to score his second career touchdown, giving Clemson a 10-7 lead.
The Tigers weren’t done there, though. UConn quickly went three-and-out after Tyler Davis sacked Huskies’ quarterback Jack Zergiotis for a loss of nine yards. On the ensuing offensive possession, the Tiger scored in less than two minutes, taking six plays to go 66 yards and take a 17-7 lead.
From there, Clemson scored 13 unanswered points.
The Tigers will receive the second-half opening kickoff.
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