'Pretty cool' play speaks to Uiagalelei's growing confidence

In a game full of explosive plays and tense moments, one in particular for Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei stood out from the rest in the eyes of one of his coaches.

Uiagalelei had just thrown a touchdown pass to tight end, Davis Allen, late in the third quarter of the Tigers’ tilt with Wake Forest last week.

But with Clemson still trailing 28-26 at the time, the Tigers decided to go for two.

Things didn’t look promising when Uiagalelei dropped back to pass again and the pocket quickly collapsed around him.

The Demon Deacons’ edge rushers met Uiagalelei in the backfield, and Jasheen Davis looked as if he might keep Wake Forest ahead as he wrapped his arms around Uiagalelei’s left leg.

But Uiagalelei – all 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds of him – maintained his balance and continued to scan the end zone for an open receiver. Beaux Collins,

who had broken off his original route, scampered back into Uiagalelei’s field of vision toward the middle of the field.

“Two points is kind of like fourth down,” Uiagalelei said. “You don’t want the ball to end up in your hands because a two-point conversion is the last play.

So I was just trying to be able to stay up and just try not to take a sack.”

So, off one leg, Uiagalelei flipped a pass in the direction of the Tigers’ sophomore wideout, who hauled it in for the tie.

Without that conversion, Clemson may be entering this week’s top-10 matchup with N.C. State with a blemish on its record instead of a 4-0 start.

“When they didn’t blow (the play) dead and the result happened the way it was, it ended up being pretty cool,” said Kyle Richardson, Clemson’s first-year passing-game coordinator and tight ends coach.

Richardson said it’s a play that’s emblematic of the kind of confidence Clemson’s veteran quarterback is playing with early in his junior season.

After throwing for a season-high 337 yards and a career-high five touchdowns,

Uiagalelei is completing better than 64% of his passes and already has 10 touchdown passes, more than he threw all of last season (9).

“That’s just confidence. That’s just trust,” Richardson said. “It’s those two words. He’s a tough guy anyway,

so it doesn’t surprise me that he sits in there and is willing to take it on the chin basically.

While the visual of Uiagalelei making a strong, accurate throw with another human being hanging on him “looks cool,” Richardson acknowledged, that wasn’t the most impressive part of that play to him.

“The best part of that to me is his eyes are still downfield going through his progression,” Richardson said.

“He’s got stuff all around him, and if you look at that picture,

his eyes are still focused on where am I going to deliver this ball.

Because I’ve got to make a throw and make a play right here.”

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