Before the game, Dabo Swinney did a pre-game interview with the crew of College Football Live while walking on the field one hour before kickoff. After the interview was over, host Sam Acho made a comment that Swinney looked very tense, and that comment seemed to be more accurate as the game progressed.
Swinney said this is the most accountable team he’s ever had, but it didn’t show on the field. The Tigers looked lost, unprepared, and unmotivated.
The offense struggled to find a rhythm, which resulted in three consecutive turnovers. The defense gave up 28 points, but in their defense, they didn’t get much help from the defense.
Who is to blame for the disappointing loss? Let’s go through the grades and find out.
Everyone was excited to see Cade Klubnik show why he is the right guy to lead Clemson’s offense. Instead, it looked like that crown was given to him prematurely with a 27.8 QBR.
Running Backs: B-
This was a game where Will Shipley should have carried the ball 25+ times. For some reason, offensive coordinator Garrett Riley didn’t recognize that the offense moved down the field every time Shipley touched the ball. Phil Mafah contributed some good carries as well, but a red zone fumble essentially killed the Tigers’ momentum.
Wide Receiver: C-
Antonio Williams led all Clemson receivers with seven catches and 56 yards. No big plays from any of the route runners and there were a few drop passes, one that resulted in a turnover.
Offensive Line: B-
The offensive line did a good job in run-blocking but allowed two sacks and six tackles for a loss.
Offensive Coordinator - D
Riley’s playcalling was off from the first play. He didn’t utilize his best player, and his quarterback wasn’t prepared. Let’s try again next week.
Defensive Line: C-
The defensive line didn’t put much pressure on Duke quarterback Riley Leonard, never sacking the QB and allowing Leonard to get comfortable.
The biggest play of the game sparked from a missed tackle by Barrett Carter. Carter looked like he was going to stop Leonard in the backfield on third down, but the dual-threat QB broke loose for a 44-yard touchdown.
The secondary was Clemson’s best unit. The leading receiver for the Blue Devils only accumulated 43 yards, and Leonard passed for less than 200 yards. They are the bright side of the day.
Defensive Coodinator: C
Wes Goodwin called a good game in the first half and kept the Blue Devils offense in check for the majority of the game, but the turnover from the offense kept his unit on the field too long and deflated their spirits. He didn’t prepare for the dual-threat ability of Leonard, who finished with 98 rushing yards.
Special Teams: F
Freshman kicker Robert Gunn III had both his field goals blocked, one of which was a chip shot 23-yarder. It was deflating plays for the Tigers and momentum-boosters for the Blue Devils.