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Paws up, paws down: Clemson vs. Tennessee

Matt Mynes // Photo Editor

Clemson running back Will Shipley (1) evades Tennessee defenders during the 2022 Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 30, 2022. 

At the highly anticipated Capital One Orange Bowl the No. 7 Clemson Tigers fell to the No. 6 Tennessee Volunteers under the lights at Hard Rock Stadium on Friday. Here are a few key takeaways from the matchup. 

Paws down: Potter ends Clemson career on a low note

Graduate kicker B.T. Potter maintained a phenomenal 85.7 field goal percentage in his final season with the Tigers, going 18-for-21 this season. Against Tennessee, however, he missed three in a row to start the game.  

After Clemson failed to pick up a first down on a fake field goal attempt the drive prior, Potter missed from 55 yards on his first attempt of the game. His struggles spiraled as he missed from 49 and 42 yards on his next two attempts. 

His redemption came towards the end of the first half, when his 31-yard make finally put the Tigers on the board, albeit down 14-3. In what was his final game as a Tiger, Potter finished 2-for-5 on field goals, converting a 40-yarder to open the second half for his second make. 

There is a silver lining to an otherwise unusual performance, though. With his second field goal of the night, Potter became the Clemson record holder for most made field goals with 73.

“I was just sitting in there with some of the guys, just reflecting on my career here, and I’m just thankful,” Potter said. “A couple of years ago, I just would have never thought that I’d really get this opportunity, and I’m just thankful for everything that I’ve gotten here.”

Paws up: Klubnik and Turner emerging as a dynamic duo 

The Tigers’ first possession of the game was off to a shaky start, with starting quarterback Cade Klubnik getting sacked for an 8-yard loss. The following play on third down, though, he found freshman wide receiver Cole Turner, who caught a 33-yard pass in double-coverage down the right sideline. 

As the game transpired, Turner was involved in several crucial plays and drew multiple pass interference calls, finishing the Orange Bowl with four receptions for 51 receiving yards.

Meanwhile, Klubnik completed 30 of 54 passes for 320 yards. 

Friday’s game followed the duo’s breakout performance in the ACC Championship on Dec. 3, when Klubnik connected with Turner on a 67-yard pass, setting up a touchdown on the next play. Turner soon after became the first Clemson receiver to reach 100 yards in a single game all season.

Although both Turner and Klubnik played far from a perfect game, both are freshmen and have bright futures ahead. 

Paws down: Offensive line leaves much to be desired

It is safe to say the Tigers’ offensive line struggled to protect Klubnik, whose jersey had grass stains all over it by the game’s end. 

Giving up four sacks and constant pressure, the offensive front didn’t play well enough to help the Tigers score when they moved the ball downfield. 

While some of the blame is on Klubnik for not changing protections, the line arguably had its worst game of the season. 

“They blitzed us when we were hot, which means we didn’t have enough guys to block, and so we needed to get rid of the ball a little bit quicker,” offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter said after the game. “They did a good job. I credit them on defense of disguising a lot of stuff.”

Paws up: Shipley’s electricity 

Although he didn’t reach the end zone, sophomore running back Will Shipley was once again one of the biggest contributors to the Tigers’ offensive production.  

Echoing his iconic play against Louisville in November when he hurdled over a defender, Shipley once again saw a Tennessee defensive back going low to tackle and promptly jumped over him for a first down. 

Shipley saw only five touches in the first half, and the coaching staff quickly made an adjustment at halftime. 

“We highlighted it at halftime and said hey, ‘that’s gotta be our number one thing,’” Streeter said of getting Shipley more involved after the break. “A guy that plays as hard as him and is as talented as him, you gotta give him the ball more.”

Shipley was also the recipient of a handful of dump-offs in the passing game, adding four receptions for 21 yards. 

Shipley additionally ran in the two-point conversion after the Tigers’ first and only touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter. 

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Grace O'Donnell, Sports Editor
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