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Defense shines as Team White overpowers Team Orange in spring game

Matt Mynes // Photo Editor

Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik (2) throws a pass while getting pressured by defensive tackle Peter Woods (11) during the Tigers’ 2023 Orange vs. White spring game in Memorial Stadium. 

The Clemson spring game finally arrived, and Team White, led by coach C.J. Spiller, defeated Team Orange, led by coach Nick Eason, 20-13 at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. 

The matchup pitted the best against the best, with the first-team defense facing off against the first-team offense and the second-team defense lining up opposite the second-team offense.  

Team Orange struck first after forcing Team White to punt on its opening drive.  After that punt, Eason’s team got into field-goal territory and chose to kick. Here, redshirt freshman Liam Boyd made his Death Valley debut with a 51-yard successful field goal — one yard short of B.T. Potter’s career-long of 52 yards — to display the talent in the Tigers’ kicking room.

The Tigers lost many talented players to eligibility and the draft this year, especially on the defensive line, with the absence of Bryan Bresee, K.J. Henry and Myles Murphy. All eyes were on the Orange team’s No. 11 on the back of true freshman Peter Woods, who has drawn comparisons to Team Orange’s honorary captain Dexter Lawrence. 

Woods did not disappoint in making his presence known on the field. The 6-foot-2, 300-pound lineman showed off deceptive speed for his size to apply quarterback pressure, frequently breaking through Team White’s offensive line to scatter Klubnik. 

Team Orange’s elite secondary added to Woods’ force. Top safeties R.J. Mickens and Andrew Mukuba, linebackers Barrett Carter and Jeremiah Trotter Jr. and cornerbacks Toriano Pride Jr. and Nate Wiggins all shined on the same side of the ball.  

Mukuba and Mickens combined to create a two-headed interception monster, earning one a piece within two minutes of each other, while Carter and Trotter contributed seven and six tackles, respectively, to maintain Orange’s upper hand. 

Team Orange’s defense finished with nine tackles for loss and four sacks compared to Team White’s six tackles for loss and three sacks. 

In the absence of running back Will Shipley, who did not dress for the game, junior Domonique Thomas stepped up big time for the Orange’s offense. He recorded a game-high 63 rushing yards on 14 attempts. 

Clemson’s offense did not get the chance to shine as brightly, thanks to both teams’ defensive dominance, as Team White struggled to break through the first-team defensive line for the majority of the game. 

Standouts for Team White included running backs Keith Adams Jr. and Phil Mafah, who each scored a touchdown. The game was tied up with 1:37 on the board when Spiller’s team pulled ahead thanks to freshman safety Khalil Barnes returning an interception to gain the lead as the clock ran out, leaving the final score at 20-13.

The Tigers will open their 2023 season against Duke in Durham, North Carolina, on Sept. 4.

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Grace O'Donnell, Sports Editor
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