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Uiagalelei dishes on bounce back performance, preparation for Miami

Katie Bradham, Senior Photographer

Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei (5) drops back to pass against Louisville in Memorial Stadium on Nov. 12, 2022.

There is no doubt Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei had a lot on the line Saturday against the Louisville Cardinals.
After consecutive lackluster performances against Syracuse and Notre Dame, Uiagalelei knew he needed to live up to the potential he had been showing off in the first several games of the season.
In the narrow win over Syracuse, Clemson’s coaching staff benched Uiagalelei after he produced three turnovers and replaced him with freshman Cade Klubnik. Two weeks later, Uiagalelei’s performance was just as disappointing, as Klubnik replaced the junior signal-caller again — although it was just for two plays.
Going into the Louisville game, Clemson’s head coach Dabo Swinney was not looking to give Uiagalelei “an opportunity to go out there and stink,” after defeating the Cardinals 31-16. 
Luckily for the veteran QB, Swinney was pleased with Uiagalelei’s performance.
Finding his footing quickly, Uiagalelei opened the game with an 11-yard touchdown run less than five minutes into the first quarter and finished the game completing 19 of 27 pass attempts for 185 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions.
Notably, the Tigers’ offense was much more efficient against the Cardinals, partly because of a faster tempo that allowed Uiagalelei to play more freely. 
“I love the up-tempo offense,” Uiagalelei said on Monday. “It’s less thinking; you’re just going out there reacting instead of just thinking. The faster you play, the less you have to think, and the more it’s just a reaction. When you’re reacting, that’s all the preparation you’ve put in throughout the week, and you’re not thinking about stuff too much.”
The former five-star recruit also made his mark on the ground, finishing with a season-high 15 rushing attempts for 32 yards and a score. 
“I definitely like getting involved in the run game early,” he said. “It was cool for me to be able to kind of get the juices out, kind of get everything going … getting hit, I feel like it kind of calms you down, sets you easy into the game … it feels good.”  
While Uiagalelei’s running and passing abilities have been on display on numerous occasions, one area he does not often get to showcase is on the receiving end of the ball, as he was early in the second half. On first-and-10 at the Louisville 15-yard line, Uiagalelei caught a pass from freshman wide receiver Antonio Williams on a trick play for six yards.  
“Growing up, I always wanted to play something other than quarterback. I always wanted to play receiver, but I was never fast enough,” Uiagalelei said. “I was always too big, and I knew that was never going to be a reality. It was super cool, we’ve been practicing that play for a long time, so I was happy we got to run it. Coach Swinney was pretty mad I didn’t score on it, and I agree with him, but it was cool.”
However, it looks like living out his childhood dreams once was enough for the signal caller.
“The scariest thing is when the ball is in the air, I feel like I’m going to get killed,” he said. “When the ball is in the air, I’m waiting to catch it, and I feel like someone can just take my legs out and just get murdered. It’s probably what all the receivers feel like, but it was cool to catch a pass.” 
Looking towards this week’s matchup against the Miami Hurricanes, Uiagalelei hopes to lead the Tigers to their 10th win of the season. 
While the Hurricanes may not have the best record in the ACC, their defense has forced 17 turnovers on the season, four of which came last week in the Hurricanes’ win over Georgia Tech. 
With a strong defense coming to town on Saturday, Uiagalelei acknowledged  that the offense needs to limit turnovers and stop shooting itself in the foot.
With two games left in the regular season, Uiagalelei and the Tigers will take on the Hurricanes at home in Death Valley on Saturday at 3:30 PM ET. 

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