D.J. Uiagalelei benched in Clemson win, remains starter

CLEMSON, S.C. — Dabo Swinney made a change at quarterback that helped spark a 27-21 come-from-behind win against Syracuse, but afterward, he insisted D.J. Uiagalelei remains Clemson’s starting QB.

“D.J.’s our quarterback,” Swinney told ESPN’s Molly McGrath after the game. “That’s our our guy. That’s our quarterback.”

Down 21-10 midway through the third quarter, Uiagalelei threw his second interception of the day — his third turnover overall — but Syracuse was unable to turn it into points. On the Tigers’ ensuing drive, Swinney turned to true freshman Cade Klubnik in hopes of igniting Clemson’s struggling offense.

Klubnik threw just two passes on the drive — completing one for 18 yards — but a personal foul on Syracuse linebacker Marlowe Wax for hitting Klubnik as he scampered out of bounds on a third-and-25 play extended the drive, and Phil Mafah punched in a 1-yard score.

Klubnik remained in the game, and Clemson scored on two of its next three drives — a 50-yard Will Shipley run and a 44-yard field goal — to complete the comeback.

For the game, Klubnik was 2-of-4 passing for 19 yards to go with 15 yards rushing.

After an impressive scoring drive to close out Clemson’s win over Georgia Tech in the opener, Klubnik is just 5-of-13 passing in limited action.

Uiagalelei struggled badly last season, but Swinney spent the entire offseason defending his QB, insisting he was Clemson’s starter. Uiagalelei responded with a strong start to the 2022 season, and he had just two interceptions (with 17 TD passes) entering Saturday’s game, leading Swinney to routinely criticize fans and media who had speculated about a QB change.

“Everybody had their prognostications on when [Uiagalelei] wouldn’t be the starter anymore,” Swinney said just days before benching the QB. “People love to do that type of stuff. It’s embarrassing, really. But that’s the world we live in.”

Clemson moved to 8-0 with the win over Syracuse and all but wrapped up the ACC Atlantic Division. The Tigers have an off week upcoming before heading to Notre Dame on Nov. 5.

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