CLEMSON, S.C. — With 3:11 left in the game, Clemson faced a third-and-goal situation from the NC State nine-yard line as DJ Uiagalelei and the offense walked over to the sideline to talk with their coaches.
As the offense huddled up, head coach Dabo Swinney suggested a bootleg to offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter, who was communicating with Swinney from the press box.
Swinney suggested they run a naked bootleg, a play in which Uiagalelei makes a hard fake, hides the football and bootlegs to his left and towards the end zone.
“I thought I was back in 1992 Alabama all over again,” Swinney said. “We had milked the clock and made them use their timeouts and I knew they knew we were going to run the ball right there.”
Swinney guessed right.
The Wolfpack bit on the play fake, and Uiagalelei sold it well, too. The end result was an easy run to the end zone for Uiagalelei, clinching the Tigers’ 30-20 victory this past Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
“Just getting under center shows, ‘Here comes another run.’ So that suggestion was right on point,” Streeter said Monday. “We just tweaked a few things to make it work and fitted it into what we were doing. So, it just worked out well, which is fun to see.”
Uiagalelei’s bootleg was not the first time Swinney drew up a play in the dirt to win a game. In Clemson’s overtime win at Miami in 2009, Swinney, under the suggestion of former Clemson wide receiver Jacoby Ford, drew up a game-winning touchdown pass to Ford right on the sideline.
No matter who the offensive coordinator has been, it’s been common for Swinney to be involved in some of the play calls.
“He is a big part of this thing, and he has always been a big part of it,” Streeter said. “Things that he sees as a head coach brings a different perspective. So, there is definitely suggestions and thoughts throughout the game that we do.
“It has been a big, big part in a lot of different ways. His suggestions and things that he believes in has really helped us in a lot of ways, too.”
Before doing it against NC State, Clemson had gone under center a few times already this season. Swinney knew the Wolfpack would have seen that on film and that it would sell the fact they were trying to run the football with their running back.
“I just said we are going to go under center right here and we are going to run our inside zone and really, with a hard fake, and you have to have a little bit of guts, because you give a little bit of a pause and you are just coming out the backdoor,” Swinney said. “I think they are going to sellout to try and overplay it. So, it worked out.”
Swinney instructed Uiagalelei to not go out of bounds, no matter the situation. The worse case scenario was going to be a field goal attempt.
“Let’s keep the clock running, let’s don’t run out of bounds,” the Clemson coach said. “I told him you got a good chance this thing is going to pop. So, it did. They overplayed and it worked out. It was a nice play by DJ.”
And an even better play call.