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Tennessee squashes Clemson 31-14

There’s too much orange in Miami.

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Clemson at Tennessee Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

First Quarter

Clemson won the toss and elected to kick off to the high-powered UT offense to start the ballgame. Ruke Orhorhoro sacked Joe Milton on third down after a few quick passes and a shaky punt gave Clemson the ball on their own 22-yard line.

After Aaron Beasley gave the Vols a sack of their own on 2nd down, the relatively unknown Cole Turner came up huge for a 33-yard reception in traffic. Facing 3rd & 4 from just outside the red zone, Cade overthrew Davis Allen and it looked like a field goal attempt was next. Dabo instead threw out some trickery and had his son Drew Swinney attempt to run for the first down, but he was stopped short and the Tigers turned it over to Tennessee.

Bru McCoy picked up some yardage before a UT holding penalty sent their offense to 1st & 20 near midfield. Tennessee’s tempo offense was on full display as they were getting set and snapping the ball within ten seconds of the play-clock starting. Another holding penalty was negated by an Orhorhoro unsportsmanlike penalty which moved the Vols to the red zone. Shortly after that, Josh Heupel was tagged with an unsportsmanlike conduct call which moved his offense back again.

All those penalties soon proved irrelevant as Milton found McCoy on the post route to put UT up 7.

On Clemson’s next possession, Cade chucked it deep for Ngata who won the PI call for 15 yards. On 3rd & 9 a rollout to #2’s right went nowhere, and Potter missed a lengthy 55-yard attempt. Wade Woodaz sniffed out the Tennessee runner on 3rd down and UT punted right back to Clemson.

Another Ngata PI call pushed the Tigers out near midfield, followed by a couple of Mafah runs and Antonio Williams’ first reception of the day on 3rd down to finish the first quarter.

Second Quarter

Klubnik pulled the RPO for 12 yards, displaying his agility as he weaved through tacklers for the first down. Two incompletions led to another uncharacteristic missed BT Potter attempt, this time from 49 yards out.

Bryan Bresee hit Milton for his ninth sack of the year and a stuffed run set up 3rd & 16 for Tennessee. Milton bombed one to his receiver but Toriana Pride (playing in place of the injured Sheridan Jones) knocked it to the ground.

Beasley hit Klubnik for his second sack of the game, not willing to let Cade get comfortable in the pocket. Yet another PI call on third down moved the chains for Clemson on a deep toss to Cole Turner, extending the drive for another set of downs.

A screen pass to Antonio Williams went for 25 yards to set Clemson in its best scoring position of the night. Dabo called more trickery on a Davis Allen pass to fellow tight end Jake Briningstool but it was overthrown in the end zone. On 3rd & 13 Cade couldn’t connect with his target, and BT Potter barely missed his third attempt of the night, perpetuating a nightmarish start for the usually reliable placekicker.

Milton finally connected on a deep throw to Squirrel White for 50 yards, quickly followed by the Jabari Small TD run to push their lead to 14.

Shipley returned the kickoff to the 40-yard line and Clemson drove to the red zone yet again but was unable to hit paydirt. This time, Potter finally hit the uprights for 3 points to get Clemson on the board.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Potter had a busy night, attempting a total of 5 field goals but only converting twice.
Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Both teams traded punts until Clemson got the ball with a chance to run the 2-minute drill before halftime. Klubnik found his marks accurately and moved the offense to excellent field position, but a costly delay of game penalty moved things backward. Cade then made the mistake of trying to scramble through the pass rush and got dragged down to end the half, 14-3.

Third Quarter

After only running Shipley a total of four times in the first half, Clemson came out and leaned on the ground game to plow steadily to Tennesse’s red zone; the drive stalled but Potter hit his 73rd career field goal to give Clemson a meager 6 points.

Tennessee punted for the sixth time but sacked Cade on third down to get possession right back. Nate Wiggins nearly picked off Joe Milton on 2nd down and Barrett Carter hammered him for Clemson’s fourth sack of the night.

Once again, Clemson drove steadily into UT territory only to come up empty-handed, this time on a 4th down attempt, a frustrating theme of the night for Clemson fans.

The Vols responded quickly and turned Jaylen Wright loose for 42 yards, immediately followed by another Milton TD pass to Squirrel White to make the score 21-6 at the end of the third quarter.

Fourth Quarter

Almost predictably, the Tigers plodded all the way to a 1st & goal situation. This time though, Shipley carried to the 5, and on 2nd down Cade scampered in at long last for six points and the first Clemson touchdown of the night. On the heels of an unsportsmanlike penalty on a UT defender, the 2-point conversion was punched in by Shipley, and all of a sudden the game was 21-14.

Milton wasted little time firing back at Clemson, tossing another deep shot to Ramel Keyton for the 46-yard touchdown.

The pressure was on, and the Tiger offense took the field needing to score quickly to maintain what little hope there was left for the comeback. On 3rd & 8 Cade chucked it deep for Cole Turner but it fell incomplete. Facing fourth down from their own 33, the Tigers stayed on the field and tried to make something happen, but Cade’s desperation heave was picked and the Vols took over at midfield.

Both teams traded punts before UT drove comfortably to Clemson’s red zone to ice the game with an easy field goal. Clemson ironically marched yet again down the field with some quick passes but Cade threw his second interception of the night to end things in Miami.

It was a disappointing finish to the 2022 campaign but the future is bright with Cade at the helm. There’s plenty of work to do and lots of Clemson sports to cover, so be sure to stick around with us as we head into the new year!