CLEMSON — Clemson rang in a new quarterback era on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
In front of 17,101 fans, D.J. Uiagalelei was christened as the Tigers de facto starter at the annual Orange vs. White spring game. With Trevor Lawrence expected to be taken with the No. 1 overall pick of the NFL Draft in less than a month, it is now Uiagalelei’s offense and program. The sophomore proved it, too, throwing for 174 yards and one touchdown on 20 of 28 passes.
The performance wasn’t enough, though, as the White team sneaked out a 14-13 win. A Phil Mafah 4-yard touchdown run with 1:58 to play gave the White team its only lead of the day. Uiagalelei had an opportunity to lead his Orange team down the field for a game-winning drive but was sacked twice.
White team quarterback Taisun Phommachanh struggled, looking uncomfortable at times in the first half. He completed 14 of his 25 pass attempts for 163 yards with a touchdown and interception. A redshirt sophomore, he put together a strong second half and led the White team down the field late in the fourth quarter before exiting with a left leg injury. Hunter Helms, a redshirt freshman walk-on, played for both teams and finished a combined 11 of 16 for 88 yards with an interception.
Uiagalelei took his Orange team on a 73-yard, 4-plus minute drive to open up the game with a 14-yard strike to his old St. John Bosco High School teammate, Beaux Collins.
While the opening drive served as some assurance for Uiagalelei, Clemson’s defense dominated. Linebacker Jake Venables led his Orange team with nine total tackles and a sack. Cornerback Andrew Booth had five tackles, including an impressive interception that wasn’t counted. R.J. Mickens had an interception for the Orange team.
Team White safety Tyler Venables had an impressive outing, making seven total tackles and 3.5 sacks.
Early enrollees on the defensive side had a strong day, too. With several corners missing, Nate Wiggins stepped up and made four tackles with a pass break up. Cade Denhoff nearly had an interception, too, finishing Saturday with two tackles.
B.T. Potter had field goals of 54 and 24 yards for the Orange Team.
Joseph Ngata (Orange) and Ajou Ajou (White) each led their team in receiving yards. Ajou led all pass catchers with six catches for 102 yards and a score, while Ngata had six receptions for 83 yards.
In the post-Travis Etienne era, Lyn-J Dixon led the running back competition throughout the spring. The redshirt senior led his carried the ball four times for 25 yards for his White team. Mafah led the White team with six carries and 38 yards.
Kobe Pace, in the mix for to be the Tigers’ second or third running back in the fall, carried the ball six times for 69 yards for the Orange team. Early enrollee Will Shipley had 13 rushing yards on six carries for the Orange, too.