Observations After Clemson’s Hold-Your-Breath Win VS. Lowa State!

It hasn't been an easy season for Clemson football, so it's no surprise its Cheez-It Bowl game against Iowa State in Orlando, Florida, went down to the final minute.

The Tigers built a 17-point lead that it allowed to change quickly to seven but then held on from there behind its defense, which twice turned back the Cyclones in the final minutes. The win was Clemson’s 10th of the season, extending its streak of 10-win seasons to 11, third-best all-time. It was also Swinney’s 150th win, achieved in less than 14 full seasons, and only five coaches have reached that total more quickly.

As Clemson Turns Toward 2022, The Cheez-It Bowl Gave It Some Answers But Also Left Some Questions:

D.J. Uiagalelei continues to be an inconsistent quarterback. He completed 21 of 32 passes (66%) for 187 yards without a touchdown and with a costly interception on a batted pass. He finished his first season with more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (9), and new offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter removed the deep pass from the playbook on Wednesday night.

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That almost certainly means incoming freshman Cade Klubnik will get a chance to win the job away from Uiagalelei in the spring. Clemson’s receiver corps, young and inexperienced beyond Justyn Ross, also struggled this season. But the emergence of the Collinses — Beaux and Dacari — offers optimism for 2022. Dari had a breakout bowl game, catching six passes for 56 yards, including several clutch receptions.

The Tigers likely will continue to emphasize the rushing game in 2022. Sophomore Kobe Pace and freshman Will Shipley continued to impress as runners and as receivers, combining for 112 yards rushing on 30 carries and nine receptions for 91 yards, though Shipley had two drops.

The defense didn’t have any drop-off after the departure of longtime coordinator Brent Venables to become head coach at Oklahoma. The Cyclones were without several key players, most notably star running back Breece Hall, but they also had a savvy, veteran quarterback in Brock Purdy and good skill at receiver.

Clemson held Iowa State to 270 yards and 14 first downs. New co-coordinators Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn, promoted internally by Swinney, who didn’t spend “30 seconds” pursuing bigger names outside the program, fared well in their high-pressure debuts in the new roles.

9:22 p.m. | Behind defense, Clemson football hangs on to win Cheez-It Bowl against Iowa State

Clemson wins the Cheez-It Bowl 20-13 against Iowa State, and not for the first time, it can thank its defense.

After the Cyclones quickly turned a 17-point deficit into a one-possession, they had two more chances to tie or win the game. The Tigers’ defense made sure the narrow lead stand. Iowa State got the ball at its 3 with 6:55 remaining but had to punt after six plays for a net eight yards.

Clemson ran three times and punted back, leaving the Cyclones with 89 yards and 112 seconds to catch the Tigers. Quarterback Brock Purdy moved the ball to the ISU 36 and on a fourth-and-two appeared to have run for a first down.

But Mario Goodrich, whose third-quarter interception for a touchdown proved to be the winning points, made another big play. He hit Purdy and punched the ball loose. Purdy recovered, but behind the line of scrimmage. The ball turned over to Clemson, which ran out the remaining 33 seconds.

8:59 p.m. | Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. sidelined by controversial hit by Iowa State player

Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr., a projected first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, was sidelined by a controversial hit by an Iowa State player. No penalty was called. Here’s the story:

Cheez-It Bowl: Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. shaken up on the controversial play by Iowa State

8:43 p.m. | Clemson clinging to lead against Iowa State in Cheez-It Bowl
Iowa State is back in it.

Buoyed by an interception and a bizarre multi-turnover play negated by a Clemson penalty, the Cyclones drove 53 yards on eight plays for a 6-yard touchdown pass from Brock Purdy to wide-open tight end Charlie Kolar to cut their deficit to seven points.

Kolar gave a head-fake that shook off Clemson’s Barrett Carter, who had been penalized for a roughing-the-passer penalty that helped Iowa State keep the ball with good field position.

8:28 p.m. | Clemson turnover gives Iowa State new life in Cheez-It Bowl

Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei has thrown nine interceptions in the regular season, and his 10th gave Iowa State new life late in the third quarter.

After the Tigers scored twice in 51 seconds to build a 17-point lead, the defense stopped the Cyclones on three plays.

But on the next play from scrimmage, Uiagalelei tried to throw right while rolling left, and his pass was batted at the line and intercepted at the Tigers’ 28.

Clemson’s defense limited the damage, holding Iowa State to no yards and forcing the Cyclones to accept a 45-yard field goal. But a three-score lead is now a two-score lead.

CLEMSON coach dabo

8:14 p.m. | Clemson may have applied the knockout punch against Iowa State in the third quarter of Cheez-It Bowl

With perhaps the most bizarre play of its 2021 season, Clemson has taken control of its Cheez-It Bowl game against Iowa State. After the Tigers scored the game’s first touchdown to take a 13-3 lead, the defense quickly padded it.

On a second-and-five play, Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy attempted a pass. Clemson’s defensive end Justin Mascoll batted it up into the air, and Purdy attempted to bat it down. Instead, he batted it to cornerback Mario Goodrich, who returned it 18 yards for a touchdown.

Clemson Running

8:08 p.m.| Clemson wins start of the second half against Iowa State in the Cheez-It Bowl

Teams talk about the importance of the first series of the second half. Clemson won both. The Tigers defense stopped Iowa State’s first series after one first down, helped by a holding penalty against the Cyclones but also defending consecutive passes to force a punt.

Clemson’s offense took over at its 21, churning for yards rather than exploding and getting an athletic reception by Beaux Collins that was reminiscent of recent Tigers greats Mike Williams, Tee Higgins, and Justyn Ross. Trying to shake the grasp of a Cyclones defender, D.J. Uiagalelei threw a wobbly, arching pass toward Collins, who leaped and fought off two defenders for an 11-yard gain on a third-and-four.

From there, Clemson kept the ball another nine plays, including a fourth-and-one run by Uiagalelei and scoring on a 12-yard run by Will Shipley, who broke off a run up the middle to the right side and went untouched into the end zone.

Much like the lengthy offensive possession to start the first half, this one consumed a lot of clocks: 16 plays, 79 yards, and 7 minutes, 39 seconds.

7:26 p.m.| Two ways to look at Clemson’s first half against Iowa State in Cheez-It Bowl

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? That likely will determine how you view Clemson’s first half of the Cheez-It Bowl. The Tigers lead Iowa State 6-3. They have 13 first downs compared to seven for Iowa State and have outgained the Cyclones 212-153. But the Tigers have only two field goals and have struggled once the field grows shorter.

So, do you look at the second half and say, “We haven’t played that well but have the lead?” Or is it “We have the lead at the half, but if we don’t play better in the second half, we’re in trouble?

7:21 p.m. | Clemson strikes out in final seconds of the first half against Iowa State in Cheez-It Bowl

The hot-and-cold nature of Clemson’s offense surfaced again on its final possession of the first half. Gaining the ball after forcing an Iowa State punt with 2 minutes remaining, the Tigers moved quickly from their 12 to the Cyclones’ 19 behind six completions by D.J. Uiagalelei for 48 yards and a 21-yard run by Kobe Pace.

From there, the drive went askew. After spiking the all-on-first down, Uiagalelei threw a risky, wobbly pass to the middle of the field while under the pressure of the Iowa State pass rush. It fell incomplete.

Then, Beaux Collins took his eyes off Uiagalelei’s next pass and dropped it out of bounds.
On fourth down, B.T. Potter’s streak of consecutive field goal conversions was snapped at 13. He missed wide left on a 36-yard attempt.

7:03 p.m. | Clemson football takes lead late in the second quarter

Sparked by two consecutive passes from D.J. Uiagalelei to Dacari Collins, Clemson took the lead late in the second quarter. The Tigers moved 41 yards in eight plays, hurt by an illegal block penalty that negated a 10-yard catch-and-run by Will Shipley. B.T. Potter kicked a 51-yard field goal with 4:07 remaining in the half.

6:58 p.m.| Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei has found a new favorite target in the first half

Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei has eight completions at the 5-minute mark of the second half. Four are to freshman Dacari Collins, who is getting more playing time because the wide receivers corps is depleted. Collins has 42 yards receiving after making only 10 receptions in eight regular-season games.

6:51 p.m.| Clemson linebacker James Skalski limps off the field

Already missing starting linebacker Baylon Spector because of an injury, Clemson lost James Skalski at least temporarily midway through the second quarter. Skalski appeared to injure a leg as he pulled up to avoid hitting Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy as he went down after a 3-yard run.

6:35 p.m.| Quarterback Brock Purdy draws Iowa State even with Clemson football in Cheez-It Bowl

Iowa State had a much more impressive second drive than its first when it went three-and-out. Quarterback Brock Purdy was the catalyst, completing four consecutive passes for 56 yards, including a 34-yard gain to Xavier Hutchinson, as the Cyclones moved to a first-and-goal. From there, the drive bogged down, hurt by an illegal procedure penalty, and Iowa State tied the score on a 22-yard field goal by Andrew Mevis. The possession covered 78 yards on 11 plays.

6:18 p.m.| Clemson football quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei having an impressive start in Cheez-It Bowl

Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei completed his first six passes against Iowa State for 63 yards to five receivers. Most of his passes have been short — swing passes or quick outs. His first attempt to go deep – on his eighth pass — went incomplete when a Cyclones blitz forced him to release early to Beaux Collins.

6:03 p.m.| Clemson chews up the clock on the opening drive

Clemson received the opening kickoff, and moved — methodically — for a score, perhaps signaling its strategy against Iowa State. Running the ball 11 times for 39 yards and passing three times — all completions — for 35 yards, the Tigers kept the ball for 8 minutes and 8 seconds. The drive bogged down after getting a first-and-goal from the 7, and B.T. Potter kicked a 23-yard field goal to give Clemson the lead.

5:54 p.m.| Clemson football to be missing players for Cheez-It Bowl

Clemson announced a handful of players will be unavailable for the game: Starting offensive lineman Mason Trotter among Clemson players out for Cheez-It Bowl

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