The Clemson Tigers fell to 4-3 on the season with a senseless defeat in Coral Gables to the Miami Hurricanes. After leading 17-7 in the fourth quarter, the Tigers were dominated in the final quarter and lost in double-overtime, 28-20. Clemson’s slim chances of reaching the ACC Championship Game were extinguished. What were the key plays that led to another frustrating loss?
More Goal Line Shenanigans
Clemson’s second drive began on the 16-yard line after a Hurricanes punt. The Tigers converted a few third downs to progress the ball including a 34-yard completion to Adam Randall and a Cade Klubnik scramble for a first down. On third and goal from the two-yard line, Will Shipley took a handoff and fumbled just before crossing the goal line. Miami recovered in the end zone and the game remained scoreless. Two well-known issues for the 2023 Tigers intersected here: turnovers and red zone woes.
Hurricanes Take Lead
The Miami Hurricanes quickly capitalized on the turnover. On the very next play, Brashard Smith took a handoff from backup quarterback Emory Williams and shot through the Clemson defense for an 80-yard touchdown.
Jake Briningstool Ties the Game
After a couple of possessions for each team (including another turnover for Clemson, this one a Cade Klubnik fumble), Clemson took over at the ten-yard line. A long gain for Antonio Williams set the Tigers up in Miami territory. Facing a third-and-12, Klubnik threw to the end zone and Jake Briningstool made a terrific catch to tie the game. Clemson fans have wanted more usage of the tight end and they got it in this game. The score capped a seven-play, 90-yard drive.
End of Half Turnovers
After forcing a Miami three and out, Clemson had the ball back with a chance to take the lead. That was not to be just yet as Klubnik threw an interception on third and 16. Miami was struggling to get anything going in the passing game and promptly threw an interception of their own. Sheridan Jones picked off a pass that appeared to be caused by a poor route by the receiver. With less than a minute to go until halftime, Klubnik was sacked just outside of the goal line and Clemson was fortunate it was not ruled a safety. The teams went to the locker room tied at seven.
The Kick is Good
Clemson’s defense continued to play well, forcing another Miami three and out to begin the second half. The Tigers began the drive at the 19-yard line and picked up a chunk play on a nice contested catch by Beaux Collins. Troy Stellato advanced the ball to the 23-yard line before the drive stalled. Jonathan Weitz was brought on to attempt a 41-yard field goal and he nailed it to give Clemson its first lead of the night at 10-7.
Mukuba Stop on Fourth Down
Now leading 10-7, Clemson’s defense allowed a fourth down conversion and then a run by Donald Chaney Jr. that advanced the Hurricanes past midfield. On fourth and two at the Clemson 37-yard line, Andrew Mukuba filled a gap and made a great tackle to halt the Miami drive and give the ball back to Clemson.
Clemson now had momentum and Cade Klubnik completed a slant pass to Jake Briningstool. The tight end galloped for 50 yards before being tackled. After a false start penalty, Klubnik again threw to Briningstool. Despite good coverage by the Miami defender, Jake Briningstool hauled in the pass and got one foot or knee down in the end zone. The play was initially ruled incomplete but a review showed that it was a catch and Clemson was awarded the touchdown. The Tigers led 17-7 with 2:01 remaining in the third quarter. After this play, Clemson’s win expectancy was 90.9% (according to gameonpaper.com).
As the game turned to the fourth quarter, Miami turned to its running game. The Hurricanes pounded it down Clemson’s throat for four and five yards at a time, chewing up yardage and the clock. On third and three at the Clemson 11-yard line, Emory Williams lobbed a pass to Colbie Young. Nate Wiggins never located the ball and Young made the touchdown catch to cut the deficit to three at 17-14 with eight minutes remaining.
Clemson Cannot Close The Door
The Tigers got the ball back with eight minutes remaining and a chance to kill the game off. Facing a third and four, Cade Klubnik threw a very poor pass to Jake Briningstool and the pass fell incomplete. It was a three-and-out that took only 55 seconds off the clock. Aidan Swanson then shanked the punt and Miami took over at the 38-yard line. Short of a turnover, it was about the worst-case outcome from the Clemson offense.
Clemson’s defense allowed a few first downs but on third and seven from the Clemson 20-yard line, the Tigers forced an incompletion and Andres Borregales tied the game with a 38-yard field goal. Clemson’s offense again failed in very quick fashion, going three and out and burning only 18 seconds off the clock. The Hurricanes had 1:27 remaining but after getting a first down, Mario Cristobal opted for overtime.
Overtime Number One
Clemson had the ball first in overtime. The Tigers got a first down on a run from Will Shipley and advanced to another goal-to-go situation. As has been the case all season, that spelled trouble for the offense. Cade Klubnik was sacked, losing ten yards. A short gain to Stellato set up a third and goal at the 15-yard line and a Cade Klubnik draw play went absolutely nowhere. Jonathan Weitz hit his 31-yard field goal attempt to put the Tigers ahead 20-17. Miami needed a touchdown to win but the Clemson defense stood tall, stuffing a third and one for a loss and forcing another Andres Borregales field goal attempt. He tied the game from 35 yards out and forced a second overtime.
Miami had the ball first and advanced 13 yards on a quick bubble screen. A pair of runs got the Hurricanes inside the five-yard line and Ajay Allen punched it in on first and goal to make it 26-20. The first two-point conversion attempt failed but TJ Parker was called for a horse-collar tackle and Miami got another chance. The second attempt was converted with a short run to put Miami ahead 28-20. Clemson found hope with a nice catch by Tyler Brown to get to the two-yard line. Failure to convert in short-yardage situations continued to haunt Clemson, however, as Shipley was stopped on second and third down to set up a fourth and goal from the one-yard line. According to Dabo Swinney, the call was another hand-off but Cade Klubnik opted to keep the ball and tried to run around the left edge. Unsurprisingly, Klubnik was unable to get anywhere close to beating the Miami defenders. His attempt came up short by roughly five yards and the game was over.
Clemson is now 4-3 and the same issues have plagued them in nearly every game of the 2023 season. The double-digit win season streak is nearly dead and it’s not even Halloween. The Tigers will look to respond positively on Saturday afternoon in Raleigh against the North Carolina State Wolfpack.