Despite lacking aesthetic perfection from both teams, the contest was charged with explosive plays, turnovers, and more. It unfolded as a seesaw battle, with both sides seemingly on the verge of clinching the win at different junctures. This particular showdown undoubtedly stands out as one of the most exhilarating among the myriad wild bowl matchups witnessed this season.
Recently, former Clemson offensive lineman Eric Mac Lain shared his takeaways from the Gator Bowl on an episode of Gramlich & Mac Lain.
“I wanted to see a little bit more from the offense throwing the football, and it is what it is at this point. There’s some serious growing up that needs to happen,” Mac Lain said. “Giving up eight sacks… it’s brutal, and it’s like 50-50, O-line versus quarterback versus whatever, protection, just outnumbered, just is what it is. And I see that, I’m like, gosh, that stinks. Like, how much better could it be. And not hitting guys when they’re open and guys dropping balls. It really felt like just this perfect, ‘Here’s the season, all in one.’ And really for the last couple of seasons, it’s kind of felt like this. But, Clemson found a way and they were able to get it, and they really leaned on (Phil) Mafah and leaned on Ship (Will Shipley).
“Defense, kind of stepped up big when you needed them the most. So many young guys – I mean, Khalil Barnes being the leading tackler, I think he has a chance to be really, really special. Wade Woodaz looked great. Barrett Carter again doing his thing, Peter Woods and company, TJ Parker. So, I think the future’s really bright for the future of the Clemson defense.”
According to Mac Lain, the best thing he saw from the win was the two-minute game-winning drive from starting quarterback Cade Klubnik. The sophomore quarterback showed up when the team needed him, completing 8-for-8 for 71 yards on the game-winning drive.
“Cade was essentially perfect… and just moving the ball, finding guys, getting out in space, making it happen… The thing that I heard coach Swinney say after the game of Cade is very comfortable going fast, and that’s what they had to do,” Mac Lain said. “And that kind of takes thinking out of it. You move him around a little bit; he’s just getting the ball to guys and moving the ball quickly.
“It is going to be fascinating, how can Clemson grow from this game and what can they take from it, what can these players take from it and essentially keep riding this wave of five games in a row.”
Hopefully, it is only up from here for the Tigers.