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Clemson defeats Iowa State, wins Cheez-It Bowl

Caleb Browder, Photo Editor

The Clemson Tigers celebrate winning the 2021 Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando, Fla. 

Clemson left with Cheez-Its in hand on Wednesday night, defeating Iowa State, 20-13, in the Cheez-It Bowl. Although the Cyclones clawed back late, the Tigers’ defensive outing in the third quarter was too much to overcome.
Clemson’s three-point lead at halftime quickly turned into a 20-3 lead when the Tigers scored 14 points in under a minute. The first seven were scored by Clemson running back Will Shipley, who scampered into the right side of the endzone for a 12-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
That play occurred at 4:54 mark. 53 seconds later, Mario Goodrich returned a Brock Purdy interception for a touchdown. Purdy’s pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage, and he attempted to bat the ball down, but instead batted it up for Goodrich to catch and run.
“I thought he was going to catch it or something,” Goodrich said of the tipped ball from Purdy. “I don’t know what he was thinking honestly, but once he did, I was happy. I was excited.”
After the game, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney praised Goodrich.
“Really proud of Mario [Goodrich],” he said. “I was talking to the team about Mario a week or so ago about this young man, because he didn’t get off to a good start.”
Swinney went on to elaborate on Goodrich’s resilience with the program.
“I’m not a big fan of the easy way out,” he said. “He’s a perfect example of — and not that there’s not good, legit reasons from time to time, but he’s a perfect example of what happens when you grow through adversity. You know, adversity is good for us and it makes you depend on God. Makes you dig deeper.”
Outside of a fourth quarter, eight play, 63-yard touchdown drive by the Cyclones, Clemson’s defense was able to keep Iowa State’s offense in check.
Iowa State did have an opportunity to go on a game winning drive in the final two minutes of the game, but new defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin kept everything in front of the defense.
Unfortunately, in his last game for the Tigers, veteran linebacker James Skalski suffered a right leg injury and was unable to play in the second half of the game.
Meanwhile, the Tigers’ offense had the same struggles that have plagued them at times this season. Clemson’s first half offense moved the ball but failed to keep drives going.
The second half offense had even more difficulties, only gaining 107 total yards, adding up to 315 total yards for the game.
Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei finished the game 21-32 for 187 yards. The sophomore’s longest play of the night came off a 19-yard completion to Shipley. 
Still, Uiagalelei remained poised throughout the game, a sentiment of his attitude the entire season. 
“I felt like going through the season, my word for this year before this season even started was ‘faith,'” he said. “Faith is something that you don’t know, you can’t see, but you know you believe in your heart. Going through it, I know Jesus put me in this position to be able to go out there this season and put me through these trials and take me through these different struggles.” 
Besides his 19-yard reception and touchdown, Shipley was not able to generate big plays. He ended the game with 18 rushing attempts for 61 yards. 
Clemson missed out on the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2015, but tonight’s win secures Clemson its 26th bowl victory. Now, the Tigers enter the offseason, with plenty of work to be done and young, promising players arriving.

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