Clemson cruised to a 73-7 win over Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, but Saturday's blowout final came with the Tigers seeing two quarterbacks with injuries.
Head coach Dabo Swinney said after the game that freshman backup D.J. Uiagalelei and redshirt-freshman third-string Taisun Phommachanh had injuries, making sense as to why Clemson went with walk-on freshman Hunter Helms — even punter Will Spiers got some runs — at quarterback after pulling junior starter Trevor Lawrence.
"I'm not going to get into specifics of anything of it," Swinney said of Uiagalelei during a postgame press conference. "It's just sore. He got beat up a little bit in the game last week and we just wanted to hold him."
Swinney, of course, was referring to the 42-17 victory against Miami. Against the Hurricanes, Uiagalelei attempted one pass but took a bulk of carries as Clemson's third-leading rusher that game, turning two attempts into 17 yards (8.5 average).
In four games, Uiagalelei — a five-star recruit from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, the 247Sports Composite's No. 10 overall prospect and top-ranked pro-style quarterback for the 2020 class — has flashed as a backup, completing 11 of 16 passes (68.8%) for 91 yards, plus two rushing touchdowns and 32 yards on eight carries (4.0 average).
Phommachanh entered after Lawrence — whom the Tigers pulled following a five-touchdown first half, completing 24 of 32 passes (75%) for 404 yards and one interception into the third quarter's opening drive — but suffered a broken left (non-throwing) hand. Phommachanh completed 2 of 7 passes (28.6%) for nine yards and had two yards rushing on as many attempts.
"I mean, it's his left hand," Swinney said of Phommachanh. "So I just know he's got a little break in there. So I think if it was any other position, he'd be able to play, but I don't know as a quarterback what type of casting he would have to have on to be able to grip the ball like he needs to. I don't know.
"But obviously, you don't do a whole lot with the left hand. You've still got to be able to grip the ball and position the ball a little bit. So I don't know. You'll have to see, once they get in there and see exactly the extent of it, what they need to do and how they can brace it or cast it or whatever."
Clemson offensive coordinator and running backs coach Tony Elliott was mum on Uiagalelei's status.
"Just decided to hold him, let Taisun get some work," Elliott said. "That was the biggest decision there."
Lawrence, meanwhile, took pride in how Helms — who completed 5 of 7 passes (71.4%) for 74 yards and two touchdowns — stepped up as No. 1 Tigers (5-0, 4-0 ACC) notched another dominant outing, this time against Georgia Tech (2-3, 2-2).
"That's really fun," Lawrence said. "I mean, that guy works hard. He's one of the hardest workers on the team. It just shows, shows how hard he works because just in his position, he's not necessarily expecting to play a ton. But he still knows the offense. He's ready. And that was cool to see him go in. And really, we used a lot of the playbook in there. And he was ready. He knew what to do. He was telling everybody, communicating.
"He did a really good job. So just proud of him, proud of the way he's worked. Been ready, no matter what. And obviously, it was kind of — he had to hop in there and be ready. And he didn't let the team down. He played well, did his part and just really happy for him."
Garrett Stepien reports for www.clemson247.com, a website devoted to Clemson athletics and featuring premium content on recruiting and much more.
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