After a last-second thriller with an eerily similar ending to one of its predecessors (2014), the D.J. Uiagalelei-led Clemson Tigers knocked off the Louisville Cardinals. Clemson, which now sits at 6-3, has officially earned bowl eligibility ahead of a quasi-bye week against the UConn Huskies.
Perhaps the greatest news for the Tigers on Saturday was a series of step ups from several players (on both sides of the football) who failed to reach stardom status in prior weeks. Admittedly, Will Shipley produced a fantastic showing in both offense and special teams, but it’s time for the young buck to take a break from the spotlight. There’s always next week (and at least two more years after that) for him to earn back his place.
LB Trenton Simpson
The offense is certainly starting to make progress, but it’s the other side of the ball that saw one of the more impressive overall performances on Saturday. Trenton Simpson led Clemson in tackles (10), sacks (2), and tackles for a loss (3). Simpson, whose best overall game prior to Louisville came against Florida State just a week earlier, established career highs in all those categories. He’s reached the opposing quarterback on four occasions over the last three weeks, alluding to signs of improvement upon his .5 sacks through his first six games of the season.
WR Beaux Collins
Despite minimal showings prior to Saturday, Beaux Collins stepped up big time with the first touchdown of his collegiate career. The Southern California native reeled six receptions for 104 yards, opening up the scoring on a 46-yard pass from D.J. Uiagalelei.
“Beaux stepped up for us,” offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “Really, really proud of him because if you look early in the season, he had a couple of drops that he battled through. He came up big.”
With star weapon Joseph Ngata expected to miss multiple weeks due to injury, the burden of continuing such success will fall on Collins again in the following weeks. He’s expected to play the crucial role in filling in the slot position with Justyn Ross and some of the lesser-reputed contributors playing on the outside.
QB D.J. Uiagalelei
With shaky play throughout the majority of the 2021 college football season, Saturday’s performance from D.J. Uiagalelei yielded a much needed sense of revival for Clemson fans across the country. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound sophomore recorded 18 completions for 220 yards and two touchdowns, averaging a gain of 7.3 per play.
I’m just really proud of him because he could’ve kept going south, and he’s trending in the right direction,” HC Dabo Swinney said after the game. “Hopefully, there will be more to come.”
Clemson’s offensive leader suffered a scare after an apparent PCL sprain mid-game, but is expected to be at full strength in preparation for Saturday. He retuned to action after missing a single second quarter series.
“We tried to protect him as much as we could,” Swinney later added. “We just have to rehab him and strengthen it up and brace him up. Hopefully, we can get him a little better this week.”
Louisville Cardinals Player of the Week: QB Malik Cunningham
Louisville signal-caller Malik Cunningham may not be the reincarnation of Lamar Jackson, but he’s certainly earned a reputation for doing it all. With 174 passing yards on 12 completions and a pair of touchdowns running the football, the versatile quarterback carried his team to a fourth-quarter lead and near victory.
The Cardinals quarterback was taken out of the game due to an apparent ankle injury in the fourth quarter, but later returned in the fourth and is expected to be ready for his team’s next game against Syracuse.
On the season, he has 2,077 yards passing with 9 passing TDs and 690 yards rushing with 15 rushing TDs.