The long-awaited quarterback switch for Clemson did not significantly impact their performance in the Orange Bowl.
Cade Klubnik, a long awaited freshman, started his first game after DJ Uiagalelei left for Oregon State, and the Tigers moved the ball rather well before failing again once they entered Tennessee territory.
On nine of its first ten drives, Clemson reached Tennessee’s side of the 50 yard line, but only managed to score six points during that time. Three field goals were missed, a fake field goal went horribly wrong, the red zone clock was mishandled at the conclusion of the half, and a down was lost.
Tennessee saw one of its best times in the recent two decades under Milton, who only reclaimed the starting role after his close buddy Hendon Hooker was injured late in the year. In the Orange Bowl, No. 6 Tennessee defeated No. 10 Clemson 31-14 after he completed 19 of 28 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns. “I trust myself, I trust my coaching and I just let it happen,” Milton said.
For the first time since 2001, the Volunteers completed 11-2, capping a season in which they defeated Alabama, LSU, and Clemson, teams that together had won six of the last seven national championships in the College Football Playoff.
Josh Heupel, the Tennessee coach who won a national championship as an Oklahoma player in the Orange Bowl, said of the group of players, “I couldn’t be prouder of a group of guys given all the hardship this group has encountered throughout their lives and what they’ve done the last 23 months.”
For the Volunteers, Squirrel White, Bru McCoy, and Ramel Keyton had the touchdown catches. Tennessee’s Jaylen Wright gained 89 yards on the ground while Jabari Small scored on a touchdown run.
In Heupel’s two seasons, Tennessee has an 18-8 record and has won 13 of their last 16 contests. During the regular season, UT rose as high as No. 1 and remained in the College Football Playoff conversation far into November.
Although Hooker and a number of other great players will go to the NFL, a wealth of talent will still be back in 2023. That includes Milton, who will contend with five-star freshman Nico Iamaleava, who has already been on school as an early enrollee, for the starting position.
In his debut in Orange Bowl game as a starter for Clemson, Cade Klubnik completed 30 of 54 passes for 320 yards and two interceptions. However, Clemson (11-3) consistently missed out on golden opportunities to score; the Tigers entered Tennessee territory on nine of their first 10 possessions, but only managed to convert those visits into two field goals.
Despite gaining 484 yards on 101 plays, Clemson still lost by 17 points.“You don’t get any points for yards,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “The name of the game’s points. … You have to finish and execute and we did not do that.”
With 10:01 remaining, Klubnik scored from 4 yards out to get Clemson within 21-14, but Milton connected with Keyton for a 46-yard touchdown on the next Tennessee possession. A minute later, Klubnik was intercepted by the Volunteers on a desperate fourth-down heave, nearly ensuring the victory.
“Wish we could have sent out these seniors with a win,” Klubnik said. “I think we gave it all we had until the last play.”
It was the Tennessee shade that stood out in this Orange Bowl, when both teams’ primary colour is orange. Hooker was there; he had come in a week or so earlier to be with his squad and aid Milton in game preparation.
Milton opened the scoring with a 16-yard pass to McCoy, and Small’s 2-yard rush pushed the lead to 14-0 with 9:03 left in the half. Tennessee topped the country in yards and points per game this year, but it didn’t mean that the country’s most productive offence was at its best.
It was a sad end to another up-and-down season for Clemson. The Tigers’ six-year winning streak in the ACC was ended in 2021 as a result of their severe offensive difficulties. Clemson (11-3) returned to the top of the ACC this season despite its defensive problems, but it’s difficult to ignore the program’s long-term prospects.
Before these last two seasons, Clemson hadn’t lost three or more games in back-to-back seasons since 2010 and 2011.
Klubnik is only a true freshman, but the capital One Orange Bowl game on Friday night showed exactly how talented he is. However, the Clemson coaches also placed an enormous amount of pressure on him, and they did it on the huge stage of a New Year’s Six bowl game. Klubnik ultimately attempted 54 passes and 20 runs. Despite the fact that he had his moments, the offence as a whole seemed disconnected.
Although head coach Dabo Swinney looks to have a bright young quarterback in his system, it’s reasonable to question whether his entire offensive strategy may need some new perspective.
J.J. Watt of the Cardinals declares this to be his final NFL season
LeBron James Scores 47 points for The Lakers on 38th Birthday
The Cowboys Win Last Night over the Colts has an NFL record-setting final score