D.J. Uiagalelei benched in Clemson win, remains starter

Clemson overcomes 4 turnovers to rally past Syracuse (2:26)

Clemson switches quarterbacks in the second half and overcomes four turnovers to beat Syracuse 24-21. (2:26)

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney made a change at quarterback that helped spark a 27-21 come-from-behind win against Syracuse, but afterward, he insisted D.J. Uiagalelei remains Clemson's starting QB.

Down 21-10 midway through the third quarter, Uiagalelei threw his second interception of the day -- his third turnover overall -- but Syracuse was unable to turn it into points. On the Tigers' ensuing drive, Swinney turned to true freshman Cade Klubnik in hopes of igniting Clemson's struggling offense.

"DJ's our starter. DJ's our leader. Ain't nothing changed there. He just had one of them days," Swinney said. "He missed a few plays, but he's earned [being the starter]. He's got to clean up a few things he did today, but he will."

Klubnik threw just two passes on the drive -- completing one for 18 yards -- but a personal foul on Syracuse linebacker Marlowe Wax for hitting Klubnik as he scampered out of bounds on a third-and-25 play extended the drive, and Phil Mafah punched in a 1-yard score.

Klubnik remained in the game, and Clemson scored on two of its next three drives -- a 50-yard Will Shipley run and a 44-yard field goal -- to complete the comeback, though the postgame theme was clearly the headline that there is no controversy moving forward.

"Absolutely not. A thousand percent not. DJ is [the starter], no question about it, Coach addressed the rest of the team about it," offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter said. "I'm just glad we've got guys who can go in there and the team not skip a beat."

For the game, Klubnik was 2-of-4 passing for 19 yards to go with 15 yards rushing.

"Really proud of Cade, to throw him in that situation and being ready. He gave us a little spark," Swinney said. "We settled down and took a little better care of the ball and found a way to battle back."

After an impressive scoring drive to close out Clemson's win over Georgia Tech in the opener, Klubnik is just 5-of-13 passing in limited action.

"He's our guy. DJ's going to lead us, and we're all right behind him," Klubnik said.

Uiagalelei struggled badly last season, but Swinney spent the entire offseason defending his QB, insisting he was Clemson's starter. Uiagalelei responded with a strong start to the 2022 season, and he had just two interceptions (with 17 TD passes) entering Saturday's game, leading Swinney to routinely criticize fans and media who had speculated about a QB change.

"Everybody had their prognostications on when [Uiagalelei] wouldn't be the starter anymore," Swinney said just days before benching the QB. "People love to do that type of stuff. It's embarrassing, really. But that's the world we live in."

After the win over the Orange, Uiagalelei told reporters he concurred with the decision.

"If I was in his spot, I'd do the same thing," he said. "You've got to be able to get a spark. When your quarterback's not playing good, then you've got to be able to make a change like that. For me, stats aren't everything. My No. 1 stat is to get the W."

Clemson moved to 8-0 with the win over Syracuse and all but wrapped up the ACC Atlantic Division. The Tigers have an off week upcoming before heading to Notre Dame on Nov. 5.