Tennessee-Clemson Orange Bowl Live Blog

Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik
The Tennessee-Clemson Orange Bowl may come down to how well Tigers quarterback Cade Klubnik performs in his biggest start yet (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Tennessee-Clemson Orange Bowl Takes On Different Feel

The Tigers starting quarterback DJ Uiagalelei transferred to Oregon State. The Volunteers Hendon Hooker suffered an ACL injury against the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Tennessee-Clemson Orange Bowl now has a different feel with both of them not playing.

Ruke Orhorhoro sacks Joe Milton on third and eight, ending the Volunteers first drive. Not to be outdone Aaron Beasley sacks Klubnik, setting up third and 14. Cole Turner makes an excellent diving catch at Tennessee’s 49 to keep the drive alive. After making it all the way to the Volunteer 27 Clemson fakes a 44 yard field goal. Holder Drew Swinney comes up two yards short on fourth and four, turning the ball over on downs.

The Volunteers fast break offense moves down field at fast break speed, using short, quick passes. Orhorhoro commits a personal foul that sets up a first down at Clemson’s 15. Milton’s sneak sets up a first and goal but head coach Josh Heupel picks up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Milton finds Bru McCoy in the back of the end zone from 16 yards to put Tennessee up 7-0.

Clemson’s Running Game Must Keep the Volunteers Off the Field

Clemson’s three backs must keep the Tennessee offense of the field. Instead two completions, and a pass interference against Joseph Ngata, sets up Clemson at the Tennessee 37. Tennessee defense runs down Klubnik twice setting up a 55 yard BT Potter field goal that ends up well wide right.

Huge three and out for the Clemson defense after the Volunteers had built some real momentum. Second pass interference against Tennessee defending Ngata gives Clemson a first down. The first quarter ends with the Tigers once again putting together a good drive into Volunteers territory. Clemson must protect Klubnik better, as Tennessee’s gotten excellent pressure against him, sacking him twice.

Three straight passes on the ground sets up a 49 yard Potter field that again goes wide right. No runs to keep the rush off Klubnik after the quarterback Phil Mafah had excellent runs on the drive. Only 11-22 rushing for the Tigers so far.

Tigers Defense Stands Up Against Volunteers Explosive Offense

Another huge three and out for Clemson’s defense, putting the Volunteers in a hole after Bryan Bresee sacks Milton on first down. Third pass interference against Tennessee moves Clemson again over midfield. Aaron Beasley continues to make big plays to stop Tiger drives. Potter misses again, this time to the left from 42, and Clemson still cannot dent the scoreboard.

This time Milton hits a bomb to Squirrel White, setting up two yard run by Jabari Small. 14-0 Tennessee, with 9:03 left in the first half. The Tigers must respond and run the ball consistently to gave their defense a break.

Will Shipley returns the ensuing kickoff to the 40. Mafah and Shipley again move Clemson to the Volunteers 30. Klubnik gets the Tigers inside the red zone for the first time. Pressure on Klubnik forces a 32 yard Potter field goal. 14-3 and the Tigers face a must stop before the half.

Can Clemson Finish First Half Strong?

Another quick possession for the Tigers defense, with some good fortune as Milton misses an open Ramel Keyton. Another Clemson drive over midfield after Ngata and Klubnik beat the blitz for a 19 yard gain. Three straight misses by the freshmen quarterback forces a Clemson punt. The Tigers cannot keep the ball out of the end zone and the Volunteers will start at the 20.

Clemson’s defense has given up 191 yards, not bad against Tennessee’s offense, and made up off for the offenses mistakes. Seven drives, all of them move into Volunteers territory. Klubnik uses short, quick passes, and his legs to drive to the 13. Then Klubnik fails to throw a pass on third down, ending another promising drive with no points. 14-3 Tennessee at the half, despite Clemson gaining 273 yards on offense. Tigers must improve on third down, 3-10 will not keep Tennessee off the field, and get Will Shipley going on the ground. Shipley’s 3-5 rushing is not enough for Clemson’s most consistent offensive weapon throughout the season.

Tigers Must Payoff Drives in Scoring Territory

The broadcast mentions that Clemson has run 36 plays in Tennesssee’s side of the field, with only three points to show for it. Another drive stalls as the Volunteers force a hold on third and five from the 23. Potter’s 40 yard field goal cuts the lead to eight. Shipley gained 26 yards on the ground on the drive, a good sign.

Clemson’s secondary continues to hold up well against Tennessee’s receivers, and they are also getting good pressure against Milton. Another punt forced by the Clemson defense, the sixth of the night. Clemson’s defense has forced four three and outs as well.

For once Tennessee forces a three and out, sacking Klubnik on third and eight. Byron Young got home, and Tennessee nearly blocks the Tigers punt. The Volunteers take over at the 31.

A holding penalty kills all the momentum on Tennessee’s drive, and Barrett Carter sacks Milton on third and 21. RPOs up the middle continue to be good for Clemson. The Tigers finally convert on third down as Shipley picks up four on third and two. Another opportunity for points is denied as Shipley comes up short on fourth and two from the 31.

Momentum Swings Tennessee’s Way After Fourth Down Stop

Four plays after the stop of Shipley and the Volunteers extend their lead. Milton hits White for the 15 yard slant to make it 21-6.set Jaylen Wright’s 42 yard run set up the score.

Clemson now finds itself in must score situations ever possession on offense. Ngata now with seven catches on the night again takes it to midfield. A completion to Turner brings Clemson to its trouble spot, inside the 40. Jake Briningstool picks up a huge third down to keep the drive alive a nine yard catch and run. On offensive snap number 87 Klubnik takes it in from four yards, after faking it to Shipley. Shipley converts for two after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

How much does a fresh defense Clemson defense matter at the end of the game? Tennessee offense does not rely on time of possession, running plays quickly. Ramel Keyton and Milton connect twice, the second on a blown coverage to push the lead back to 14. No one was within 10 yards of Keyton on the 47 yard score.

Desperation Time For Clemson

The difference in the Tennessee-Clemson Orange Bowl: big plays. Tennessee’s three plays for forty yards set up three scores. The Tigers meanwhile have been forced to go 10, 12 plays for scores. The difference shows when Clemson decides to go for it on fourth and eight from their own 33. Klubnik throws it right into the arms Tamarion McDonald at the Tigers 49.

Klubnik cannot move Clemson deep out of its own end and Tennessee now can work clock and put the game away. The Volunteer defense won the most orange of Orange Bowl’s. Clemson’s defense played well enough, outside of three big plays but it will not be enough. Chase McGrath’s 31 yard field goal puts the game out of reach.

Inability to Finish Drive Kills Clemson

The Tennessee-Clemson Orange Bowl shows that the Tigers still need more explosive players at wide receiver. Clemson’s line failed to keep the pressure off Klubnik at important times. Klubnik throws his second interception, this one to Wesley Walker in the end zone.

Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney and his staff must work to find a Mike Williams type of receiver to stretch the field. The Tigers offense, three excellent backs, a talented quarterback, and solid line, may not be enough if Clemson fails to find a way to strike for easier scores. A stronger core of wideouts must emerge in the spring for Clemson to make it back to the playoff.

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