Dabo Swinney sticking with DJ Uiagalelei, won’t blame QB for loss

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said quarterback DJ Uiagalelei will start the ACC championship game despite struggling in a loss to South Carolina to end the regular season.

Swinney on Sunday again defended his quarterback, who went 8-of-29 for 99 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the 31-30 loss to the rival Gamecocks.

“DJ had some plays that he’d like to have back, but he was a long way away from being the reason we lost the game, that’s for sure,” Swinney told reporters on an ACC teleconference previewing Saturday’s championship game against North Carolina. “He doesn’t return kicks and play safety and catch the ball. He can only control his part, but all of those things affect your psyche and the rhythm of the game.”

Clemson had three turnovers — including a lost fumble on a punt return with 2 minutes left — and finished with a negative turnover margin for the fifth straight game.

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In addition, the defense gave up five passes that went 20 yards or longer as Spencer Rattler threw for 360 yards in the victory.

But once again the spotlight is on Uiagalelei, who has had his share of ups and downs throughout his Clemson career. In games earlier in the year when he struggled, against Syracuse and Notre Dame, Clemson pulled Uiagalelei for Cade Klubnik.

Against South Carolina, there was no thought to putting Klubnik in the game.

“We had some critical drops and some missed plays, and those things add up,” Swinney said. “The next thing you know, the turnovers with empty possessions, you’re out of rhythm and then you have some drops and a few missed plays along the way, and it’s a recipe for getting beat.”

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