CLEMSON, S.C. — An estimated crowd of 35,000 fans journeyed to Clemson to see its quarterbacks on Saturday. However, what they got was a glimpse of how good the Tigers defense could be this coming fall.
Both defenses in Clemson’s annual Orange and White Game put on a show in the White Team’s 15-7 victory over the Orange at Memorial Stadium. The two offenses combined for just 329 yards. No running back netted more than 26 yards, while only the Orange Offense got over 200 passing yards, and that was by just two yards.
The two defenses forced 16 punts on the afternoon. The White Defense held the Orange to just 3 of 15 on third down. The Orange Defense allowed the White Offense to convert just 5 of 17 third downs.
It was impressive considering how dominant the defense truly was considering experienced players such as defensive tackle Bryan Bresee, cornerback Sheridan Jones, defensive tackle Tre Williams, safety Lannden Zanders, cornerback Malcom Greene and safety Tyler Venables were held out of the game.
When those guys come back in the fall, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney feels this year’s defense can be as good as it wants to be.
“They will have the type of depth that gives you a little bit of room for error,” he said. “But I think we have a chance to be a special group in the defensive line. I think we are going to be fast and athletic at linebacker and I think we are going to finally have some great experience in the secondary. It is just a matter of getting everybody back.”
Everyone is supposed to be back and ready to go by the time fall camp rolls around at the end of July.
“I think all three levels will have experience, talent and depth,” Swinney said. “It is not always the case that you have that, but it is going to start with those guys up front. I think we have seven guys that will get drafted by this time next year… So, if those guys handle their business, it is going to be a deep group that can lead the way for us.”
As for the quarterbacks. Cade Klubnik threw for 106 yards on 15 of 23 passing, including a 7-yard touchdown pass to Hamp Greene, which turned out to be the game-winning score.
DJ Uiagalelei finished the afternoon 17 of 36 for 175 yards. He did throw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Joseph Ngata in the second quarter, but it was taken off the board when Uiagalelei was ruled down by way of a touch-sack.
Uiagalelei was intercepted in the third quarter by Sherrod Covil, Jr. His 31-yard return to the Orange’s 10-yard line, set up Klubnik’s 7-yard toss to Greene on the first play of the fourth quarter. That gave the White Team a 12-7 lead with 14:11 to play in the game.
Jonathan Weitz added a 40-yard field goal with 1:58 to play for the game’s final score.
Two special teams’ blunders set up both scores in the first half. B.T. Potter muffed the snap on a punt on the Orange’s first possession at the 11-yard line, which led to a 29-yard Weitz field goal with 12:30 to go in the first quarter.
The Orange Team then cashed in a muffed snap from Aidan Swanson in the second quarter. Running back Phil Mafah rumbled in from six yards out for a 7-3 lead with 6:33 to play before the half.
The Orange led the White 7-3 at halftime.
Weitz added a 36-yard field goal with 9:47 to play in the third quarter, thanks to another special teams’ mistake. This time it was a short punt by backup punter Jack Smith. That allowed the White to pull within one point at 7-6.
“I enjoyed the game,” Swinney said. “I think we got done what we needed to get done.”