The Clemson Tigers saw their 40-game home winning streak snapped after being upset by the South Carolina Gamecocks, 31-30, in Week 13 of the 2022 College Football season. It was only Clemson football’s second loss this year, but it practically dashed any hope they would still enter the College Football Playoff. Here are the four people most to blame for the Clemson Tigers’ loss to South Carolina in Week 13.
Clemson football just lost its second game this month. In fact, they have lost two of their last four games. That’s after they went on an 8-0 tear to start the season. Now, its hopes of entering the College Football Playoff are pretty much out the window. An aggressive and motivated South Carolina football team defeated the Tigers at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Keep in mind that entering this weekend, Clemson had won seven consecutive games against the Gamecocks and 40 consecutive games at home. The latter was an ACC record. The Tigers were also 126-2 on games where they led by 14 or more at any point.
The Tigers needed to win this game and the ACC championship game against North Carolina in Charlotte on December 3 to even stay in contention for a playoff semifinal spot. This loss, however, practically means they’re out of that conversation. Take note that for the first time since the format’s inception in 2014, the Tigers will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season. That’s terrible news for a program that won national championships in 2016 and 2018.
Now let’s look at the four things most to blame for the Clemson Tigers’ loss to South Carolina in Week 13.
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4. Special Teams
Clemson football’s special teams have been one of its more stable components this season. However, they have performed up and down of late. To illustrate, kicker Aidan Swanson nailed a number of punts deep but failed on a line drive. The Tigers opened up a short field with a punt return, but they just fumbled the ball, which proved to be quite costly.
On the other end, South Carolina’s special teams turned on an excellent effort Saturday afternoon. They limited the Tigers’ offense by pushing them deep into their own territory and forcing crucial turnovers that turned the game around.
3. WR Antonio Williams
Speaking of those turnovers, Clemson turned the football over three times in this loss to South Carolina. For the fifth straight game, the Tigers had more turnovers than their opponents.
Two of Clemson’s turnovers, in fact, came in the final seven minutes of the game. One was a fumble by freshman wide receiver Antonio Williams in the final seconds that proved decisive.
With fewer than three minutes remaining, the Tigers’ defense forced South Carolina to go three-and-out. That set up one more chance for Clemson’s offense to drive for the winning score, despite being down by a single point. However, when Williams fumbled near midfield on the punt return, the Clemson offense never touched the ball again. With 2:09 remaining, the Gamecocks recovered the lost ball and just ran out the clock.
2. QB DJ Uiagalelei
Clemson football quarterback DJ Uiagalelei completed just 8-of-29 passes for 99 yards. He finished with a paltry 60.7 passer rating. To nobody’s surprise, this was his poorest performance of the season.
To underscore the Tigers’ offensive woes, they gained just 86 yards in the entire second half. Because of a lengthy punt return, the Tigers’ sole scoring drive was just 47 yards long. Their offense was so anemic that in their last four possessions, they gained just 25 yards and even threw an interception.
Keep in mind that Uiagalelei came into this program as a five-star recruit. This season, he has had a better statistical year as a junior. However, his poor performance against South Carolina highlighted why questions continue to swirl about his upside. This was the first time this season he finished with fewer than 100 passing yards.
1. Coach Dabo Swinney
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is kind of known to make in-game adjustments and improvements. We did not really see that in this game. The Tigers just could not come up with the right calls and the right execution in the game’s most crucial moments.
To illustrate, on a terrible trick play in the second quarter, Clemson lost its chance to take control. Ruke Orhorhoro had just scored a safety for the Tigers after Aidan Swanson punted to the 2. However, on the next kickoff by the Gamecocks, the Tigers had running back Will Shipley run into an on-field huddle with four other players. There was just poor coordination. Phil Mafah had the ball and went 13 yards before he fumbled it away. Consequently, the Gamecocks punched in a touchdown, and Clemson’s lead was suddenly trimmed to 16-14.
It was representative of how inconsistent the Tigers have been this month. They just haven’t look as sharp as they they did earlier in the season.
Keep in mind also that even if Clemson had defeated South Carolina, they would have needed to do it in emphatic fashion. That’s because the Tigers are a potential one-loss conference winner in the CFP race. Instead of that, however, Clemson lost the game and looked quite bad at it. This performance effectively shut off any backdoor option for Clemson to play its way in the CFP.
Remember that the Tigers dominated the ACC with an unblemished 8-0 record. However, nonconference games against South Carolina and Notre Dame doomed their CFP chances. Coach Swinney’s program has achieved the pinnacle of collegiate football by dominating the ACC, but it will not be enough to compete on a national scale. He clearly needs to make tough changes looking ahead to next season.