Analysts react to Klubnik’s impressive ACC title game performance

Analysts react to Klubnik’s impressive ACC title game performance


Analysts react to Klubnik’s impressive ACC title game performance


Cade Klubnik put on a show in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday night, replacing DJ Uiagalelei in the first quarter and sparking Clemson to its seventh conference title in the last eight years with a 39-10 win over North Carolina at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

Following the game on ACC Network’s ACC Huddle show, a couple of former ACC standouts and current ACCN analysts reacted to what they saw from the Tigers’ uber-talented true freshman quarterback.

Following back-to-back three-and-outs to begin the game with Uiagalelei at quarterback, Klubnik came in on Clemson’s third drive as planned by the coaching staff and then proceeded to lead the Tigers to scores on five of his first six drives, including touchdowns on each of the first three.

“Pretty impressive,” said EJ Manuel, the former Florida State and NFL quarterback turned ACCN analyst. “A great offensive scheme for Cade as well to get him implemented in this game – let him run the football, get out on the edge. And really what DJ didn’t do was make the easy throw. You heard Coach Swinney talk about that … just make the routine play, make the easy catch, and that’s what DJ wasn’t able to do. The first throw of the night was in the dirt, it was a screen pass. So, obviously DJ’s in his head. It’s a mental thing for him at this point. But luckily, they had a young quarterback Cade Klubnik come in and do the rest of the job.”

Klubnik finished the game 20-of-24 passing for 279 yards, added a team-high 30 rushing yards and accounted for a couple of touchdowns – one through the air and one on the ground, his first career rushing score – en route to being named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

The former five-star prospect from Texas is now set to make his first collegiate start in the Orange Bowl vs. Tennessee later this month, as head coach Dabo Swinney said after the ACC title game.

Eric Mac Lain, the former Clemson and All-ACC offensive lineman who joined ACCN in 2019, wonders why Klubnik wasn’t given the reigns of the offense earlier this season and what might’ve been if he had taken over as Clemson’s QB1 sooner.

“I’m gonna ask Coach Swinney this later, but uh, why’d it take so long?” Mac Lain said. “My biggest deal was I just didn’t know about Cade because we didn’t get to go to practice, I didn’t get to see anything with my own eyes, and so it’s a fair evaluation to trust what those guys say. Now after seeing this, I don’t know why.

“I mean, he goes for 300-plus yards, he’s dropping bombs left and right, throwing passes that I haven’t seen from the Clemson offense in two years, and what did that do? Sparked the entire team – defense, offense, skill players. We talk all that junk about the wide receivers, they ball out. They’ve got a hundred-yard catcher for the first time in a million years. So to me, man, it’s a big what if. We’re gonna celebrate, we’re gonna highlight these guys, but it’s a big what if.”

Klubnik began the game 10-for-10 for 149 yards prior to his first incompletion late in the second quarter. His 83 percent completion percentage for the game set a new ACC title game record.

Mac Lain pointed to Klubnik’s third throw of the game, a 22-yard completion to fellow freshman Antonio Williams, as an example of why Clemson’s attack needs a guy like Klubnik at the helm.

“I think it was the third or fourth throw where he’s rolling left, flips his hips and just throws a dime,” Mac Lain said. “I mean, it’s stuff that – we talk about erasers, we talk about sparkplugs, but there’s something about having a playmaker like that in this Clemson offense that’s important.”

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