Clemson football The 2023 season of Clemson football got started to a rough start. The No. 9 Tigers’ five-game winning streak over the Blue Devils came to an end when they were defeated by Duke 28-7 on the road. Since 2004, Clemson hadn’t lost against Duke.
Clemson football Cade Klubnik, the starting quarterback for Clemson’s new offense, and coordinator Garrett Riley all seemed out of sync from the start.
Jeremiah Lewis of Duke, a safety, nearly intercepted a pass on third down during the opening drive’s five plays and 11 yards, but Lewis dropped it.
From that point on, Clemson’s offense appeared disjointed. Klubnik frequently threw into double coverage in the beginning, escaped his protection and took a sack in the second quarter, and nearly lost two more passes in the first half. The wide receivers for Clemson struggled to find openings, as the Tigers spent the most of the first half using short screens. On four of their six drives in the first half, they threw a punt.
However, the red zone was where it struggled the most.
Even when Clemson put together drives in the second half, they crumbled when they were in position to score. On consecutive possessions that ended within the Duke 5-yard line, the Tigers fumbled. The first ended with a Blue Devils three-and-out after Klubnik and running back Will Shipley botched a handoff, which Duke recovered. The second, though, was a fumble by running back Phil Mafah that was recovered at the Clemson 33 and led to a Duke touchdown that increased the score to 21-7.
Riley Leonard presents a challenge for the Clemson defense.
Although it didn’t appear to be strong, Clemson’s defense kept the Tigers in the contest. Riley Leonard, a quarterback with two threats, had its hands full. Riley Leonard gained 98 yards on the ground and threw for 175 more. He had In the third quarter, he gave Duke the lead by breaking off a 44-yard touchdown run after avoiding a close call from defender Barrett Carter.
Despite limiting damage for the majority of the game, the defense’s performance fell flat. Duke scored all three of its scores on the ground. Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. and corner Sheridan Jones each made one tackle for loss for Clemson. In the third quarter, Trotter forced a turnover that Mukuba recovered, but the offense was unable to take advantage.
Both sides’ special teams make mistakes
The special teams of Clemson stepped in when the offense struggled to reach the end zone. Duke’s Jalon Calhoun, a native of Greenville, fumbled a punt, which was later recovered by linebacker Wade Woodaz. At the Duke 18, that allowed Klubnik and the attack to take control.
Five plays later, sophomore running back Will Shipley caught his first career touchdown on a 2-yard swing ball from the quarterback, giving Clemson their first of the year.
That was Tigers’s strong point on special teams. It made some mistakes of its own. Antonio Williams, a sophomore receiver, decided to field a punt that appeared to be headed towards the end zone for a touchback in the second quarter. The return only covered one yard, ending at the Clemson 8.
But the two missed field goals were by far the worst. Robert Gun III, a freshman, tried his first field goal attempt in the opening period, but Duke defensive end Wesley Williams stopped the 41-yard attempt that would have tied the score at 3. Tigers was forced to attempt another field goal in the third quarter when it finally had a chance in the end zone. Williams managed to block the 23-yard try, which missed low and to the left.