Williams and ‘Canes football overcome 10-point deficit, beat Clemson for the first time at home since 1956

Freshman quarterback Emory Williams hugs head coach Mario Cristobal after Miami’s double overtime 28-20 win over Clemson at Hard Rock Stadium on Oct. 21, 2023. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

With the ‘Canes trying to avoid going 0-3 in ACC play for the first time since 2016, the Miami Hurricanes sent out true freshman quarterback Emory Williams to rebound against a premier Clemson defense. On 4th and goal at the one-yard line, junior linebacker Corey Flagg made the play of his career, stopping Cade Klubnik to seal a 28-20 win in the second overtime, sealing the rebound that they were looking for.

Replacing the injured Tyler Van Dyke, Emory Williams, and the ‘Cane offense struggled to get anything going, with the freshman tallying an abysmal 31 yards on ten completions and an interception on one of the few deep balls thrown by the young quarterback in the first half. However, the Hurricane defense would step up to keep the Hurricanes in the game.

“Kinda playing and getting more reps… it’s a different speed when you play in a game like this against a great team,” Williams said about being more confident in the later stages of the game, “Clemson is a great defense, the more you can see what they’re doing, how they’re playing.”

With over four minutes left in the first, Clemson running back Will Shipley fumbled just before crossing the goal line, getting punched out by junior safety James Williams, forcing a touchback. In the following play, ‘Canes receiver Brashard Smith would break free to the 1-yard line, where he would get chased down and lose the football in the endzone himself. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, Jacolby George made the effort of staying with the play and landed on the ball in the endzone to take an early 7-0 lead.

After some poor offense from Miami, Clemson would get on the board with a touchdown of their own, with Klubnik finding tight end Jake Briningstool. The throw was just out of reach over the head of linebacker K.J. Cloyd, giving the Tigers the 31-yard score. The junior tight end was the catalyst for the Tiger offense all night, ending with five catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns.

With less than a minute left in the first half, Kiko Mauigoa got to Cade Klubnik in the endzone for a play that looked like a safety, but officials ruled down at the one. After a further review, the officials confirmed the call, bringing out enormous amounts of boos at Hard Rock Stadium.

The offensive struggles continued in the 3rd quarter for the ‘Canes, putting themselves in a 10-point hole following another Briningstool touchdown and a field goal. The Hurricane offense was almost non-existent, with most of the plays being screens and short passes that would force the offense to a punt and a failed 4th down conversion.

The run game would finally come alive for the Hurricane offense, opening up the offense for Miami to move forward for the first time. After some big runs from a run game of Ajay Allen, Don Chaney Jr., and Brashard Smith, Emory would send the ball deep to the physical ‘Canes wideout Colbie Young for a 30-yard touchdown, bringing Miami right back into the game with eight minutes to go in the 4th. After another three and out, Miami would tie the game at 17 with just three minutes left.

Miami’s defense gave the offense a golden opportunity to win the game in regulation, forcing the Klubnik-led offense to punt for the 4th time. However, with about a minute left in the game and at their 40-yard line and a timeout in their pocket, head coach Mario Cristobal and the offense made the curious decision to play overtime and run the ball out instead of giving his freshman quarterback a chance to win the game before the clock hit zero.

“They’ve got a really good pass rush and we thought that we were controlling the line of scrimmage,” Cristobal said. “The risk-reward side… It favored us taking the game to overtime.”

After the first overtime ended in field goals from both teams, Miami would strike in a big way in the second overtime. Williams found Colbie Young for two first downs and punched it in with an Ajay Allen touchdown and two-point conversion. In Clemson’s possession, they forced Miami’s defense to make a stand with a first and goal at the one-yard line. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and goal were all runs stuffed out by the strong Miami defense. On 4th and goal to stay alive, Cade Klubnik would keep the ball on a read option, but junior linebacker Corey Flagg Jr. blew the play up, taking down Klubnik and sealing a 28-20 Miami Hurricanes victory.

Freshman defensive lineman Reuben Bain and the Miami defense were spectacular all night, forcing three turnovers and five sacks and allowing Clemson to a staggering 0.9 yards per rush and a total of 31 rushing yards. Bain was highly disruptive for the Hurricane defense, tallying two sacks, one being a strip sack on Klubnik.

“I feel like I’m on top of the world,” Bain said emphatically.

One of the unsung heroes in this game was Miami’s offensive line. Against one of the best defenses in the country, the big boys up front showed out, allowing zero sacks against their freshman quarterback and opening 211 rushing yards that way, key in the Hurricane’s victory.

“I owe all these guys a steak dinner!” Emory Williams said when talking about the offensive line play.

Miami plans to continue their momentum for their homecoming game against the Virginia Cavaliers on October 29th at 3:30 at Hard Rock Stadium.