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Clemson vs. Louisiana Tech game preview: Tigers looking for all-around consistency

Katie Bradham, Photo Editor

Clemson running back Will Shipley (1) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Georgia Tech on Sept. 5, 2022. 

Following a 23-point victory over Furman last week, Clemson heads into its week three matchup against Louisiana Tech with an undefeated record but plenty to improve upon this season.
Slated to kick off in Memorial Stadium at 8 p.m. EDT on Saturday, the game between the No. 5-ranked Tigers and the Bulldogs will feature a Clemson team (2-0) trying to win its 36th consecutive game in Death Valley.
While Louisiana Tech is 1-1 on the year, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney isn’t shying away from the possibility of an upset.
“This is a good team, and it’ll be a big challenge for us this week,” Swinney said. “This is a team that has some dudes.”
Facing off against some of those “dudes” on the Bulldogs’ defense, Clemson’s offense will be ready to burst onto the scene after an up-and-down start to the season.
Clemson scored a touchdown on four of its five drives in the first half last week, but multiple mistakes cost the Tigers in the second half when they scored only once more.
For Swinney, he hopes to see more consistency in his offense against Louisiana Tech, especially when it comes to the Tigers’ passing game.
Although he is “pleased with the progress” the unit has made since last season, Swinney isn’t satisfied.
“You can’t win at the highest level if you can’t throw the ball. You can’t,” Swinney said. “You have to have a great passing game. And I know what that looks like the higher you get up that mountain. You will not win in college football if you can’t make plays in the passing game.”
Swinney’s starting quarterback, DJ Uiagalelei, echoed the head coach’s sentiment on Monday, saying the biggest challenge for the offense is to get out of its own way and stop shooting itself in the foot with mistakes.
The junior signal-caller enters week three having completed 67.8% of his passes for 441 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Still, he knows how critical it is for him to improve and not make excuses for any mistakes.
“I think each and every game, our goal is to get better and learn from the good stuff that we do and continue to build on that,” Uiagalelei said.
As for the players Uiagalelei will be feeding the ball to, sophomore running back Will Shipley comes into Saturday with a team-high 110 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 20 attempts.
The former five-star recruit is looking to build on his strong freshman campaign in 2021, but as a unit, Clemson’s entire running game has averaged 133 yards per game so far after recording 169.6 last season.
Blocking for Shipley will be left tackle Jordan McFadden, who is the most experienced player on the Tigers’ offensive front.
McFadden has seen a lot since he arrived at Clemson in 2019 and isn’t taking the game against the Bulldogs lightly.
“We have to approach this game like it was anyone else,” McFadden said. “Obviously, around the world, teams are getting beat, and upsets are happening. I don’t want us to be one of those teams.”
Clemson’s game against the Bulldogs will also provide a closer glimpse of the Tigers’ defense, which had its fair share of lackluster play against Furman last week.
Although his defensive players were praised as a potential all-time group in the preseason, Swinney did not hold back about the unit’s performance in week two.
“We just have to show up ready to play,” Swinney said. “I was disappointed in our effort (last week). I didn’t think we played relentless.”
Hoping to see more effort, Swinney characterized Louisiana Tech’s offense as an air raid system, and the statistics support that description.
Through two games of the season, the Bulldogs’ passers have combined for 552 yards and six touchdowns, with starter Parker McNeil accounting for five of those scores.
The Tigers’ defensive line will play a big role in trying to contain that high-power offense, but there are a lot of question marks surrounding the group ahead of the game.
Swinney said defensive tackle Tyler Davis and defensive end Xavier Thomas will both likely be game-time decisions.
Bryan Bresee’s status is also up in the air after the defensive tackle returned home last week to be with his sister Ella, who is battling brain cancer. Swinney said Bresee will play if he wants to, but he has more significant priorities with his family.
Meanwhile, Clemson’s defensive backs will be under the spotlight facing Louisiana Tech’s offense after allowing 256 passing yards to Furman last week.
Despite some of the struggles in the secondary, defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin said he is confident in starting cornerbacks Fred Davis II and Sheridan Jones. Still, they “have to apply their technique and play better.”
As Clemson closes in on a difficult stretch of ACC play, Swinney knows this game can help develop his players, but after seeing many upsets throughout college football last week, Clemson “can’t take anybody for granted.”

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