Clemson completed its 2021 season against the Iowa State Cyclones from the Big 12 conference. While expectations from six straight appearances in the College Football Playoff have made this year a bit of a disappointment for Tiger fans, a 9-3 regular season and a Cheez-It bowl appearance are certainly worth celebrating. Of course, the big question coming into the game was how the departures of DC Brent Venables and OC Tony Elliot would affect the Tigers. With Brandon Streeter assuming the OC role and Wes Goodwin the DC role, Tiger fans were to get their first glimpse of how the 2022 team might look.
Clemson got the ball first and started at the 25 after a touchback. The Tiger drive started with a nice mix of runs and short passes. Will Shipley and Kobe Pace had some nice runs getting behind their pads. They got to 1st and goal at the 7 and a couple of runs only gained a yard. A false start pushed them back to the 11. D.J. Uiagalelei picked up 5 on a designed run and then B.T. Potter came in to kick the FG and give Clemson a 3-0 lead with 6:52 left in the quarter. All in all, it was a good drive. Iowa State started off with two good downs and got to 3rd & 1, but Miles Murphy slipped through and tackled the Cyclone running back for a loss of 2. After the punt, the Tigers had the ball at their 28.
The next Tiger drive started nicely balanced but a poor throw by D.J. led to a 3rd & 6. D.J. tried to hit Beaux Collins down the right sideline but blitz pressure forced him to throw it sooner than he probably wanted to and it fell incomplete. Will Spiers’ punt was fair caught at the Cyclone 17. The Cyclones ran the ball well and pushed into Clemson territory as the 1st quarter ended. Iowa State completed a couple of passes to move into the red zone. The Tiger defense held and the Cyclones kicked a FG to tie it up 3-3 with 11:25 left in the half.
The Tigers went 3 & out after Shipley dropped a pass on 3rd down. The Cyclones started their drive well and got to the Tiger 25, but then stalled. The FG sailed wide right, leaving the score tied.
Dacari Collins had a couple of nice catches to move the ball out near mid-field. A late hit penalty put the Tigers at the Cyclone 38. Shipley had a great catch and run but a block in the back negated it. The offense couldn’t recover and settled for a 51-yard FG from Potter to make it 6-3 with 4:07 left in the half. The Cyclone drive had some good plays, especially some nice throws by QB Brock Purdy, but they eventually had to punt.
Clemson got the ball back with 2 minutes left. Pace ripped off a 21-yard run on 2nd down to the Tiger 38. Beaux Collins caught a 12-yard pass and the Tigers moved into Iowa State territory. D.J. hit Pace for a 16-yard gain to the 31. Two incomplete passes brought Potter out again with 5 seconds left in the half but the kick sailed wide left to end the half.
Iowa State got the ball first after halftime and picked up a 1st down, but the Tiger defense shut them down after that and they punted. Clemson took over at their 21. Two Shipley runs only picked up 4 yards but an offsides penalty on the Cyclones set up 3rd & 1. Shipley picked up the 1st down with 2 hard-earned yards up the middle. On the next 3rd down D.J. looked like he was going to get sacked but he threw it up for grabs and Beaux Collins came down with it to get the 1st down. A few plays later, the Tigers converted a 4th & short and 3 plays after that, D.J. picked up 7 on 3rd & 1 to move the ball to the Cyclone 12. On the next play Shipley took the handoff and scampered into the end zone untouched when the Cyclone defense over-pursued. With 4:54 left in the 3rd quarter, Clemson was up 13-3.
Iowa State had a nice kickoff return but a penalty brought it back to the 10 and a false start pushed them back to the 5. Then we saw a highlight reel play by the defense. Purdy attempted a throw but it was tipped by Justin Mascoll. Purdy then tried to knock it down, but he knocked it into Mario Goodrich’s hands and he took it to the house. At 4:01 in the 3rd quarter, the Tigers led 20-3.
The Tiger defense was energized and shut down the Cyclone offense. After the punt, the Clemson offense took over at their 20. On the 1st play, D.J.’s pass was tipped and intercepted at the Tiger 28. The Tiger defense did their job and forced a FG attempt that was good. Clemson led 20-6 with 1:23 to go in the quarter.
Phil Mafah came in at RB and had a couple of runs to set up 3rd & 3. D.J. tried to hit TE Davis Allen but it was well defended by the Cyclones. Spiers’ punt only went 32 yards and Iowa State took over at their 37. The Cyclones went for some razzle-dazzle but Clemson intercepted it but a roughing the passer penalty negated it. Purdy had a nice scramble on 3rd down to keep the drive alive and a pass set up 1st & goal from the 8. On 2nd down, Purdy hit Charlie Kolar in the back of the end zone. Clemson led 20-13 with 9:42 left.
The Tiger drive started with a nice run by Shipley and 15 yards was tacked onto it for a horse-collar tackle. He followed with another good run but a late hit penalty on Clemson brought it back. On 2nd & 17, Shipley picked up 9 on a pass. On 3rd down, Pace couldn’t get to the marker and Clemson had to punt. Spiers’ punt was fielded at the 2, putting the Cyclones in a deep hole. On 1st down, Tyler Davis knifed though the Cyclone line for a TFL. Iowa State got a 1st down but the Tigers then forced a 3rd & 14 and K.J. Henry sacked Purdy to force the punt and the fair catch was made at the Cyclone 42.
Clemson ran twice for next to nothing and D.J. was sacked on 3rd down. The punt put the Cyclones at their 10 with just under 2 minutes left. The Tiger defense played well, getting pressure on Purdy with the defensive line and forcing 4th & 2. Purdy appeared to get the 1st down on a well-designed QB run but the ball was stripped and rolled backwards behind the sticks. Clemson took over on downs and closed out the game.
So there you have it Tiger fans. With 2021 in the books, now we look forward to the offseason and what that brings in recruiting for the team’s future. Thank you for making us a part of your Clemson football experience this season. As usual, let’s discuss tonight’s game and what’s in store for 2022. Big things I see are improved offensive line play and figuring out D.J.s accuracy issues. Tonight he played reasonably well, but he still misses throws that leave me scratching my head. What do you think?