No. 9 Clemson upset by Duke as Tigers produce turnover-filled dud in season opener


The unranked Duke Blue Devils provided another Week 1 college football upset, taking down the No. 9 Clemson Tigers, 28-7, in shocking fashion in Durham, North Carolina, Monday night. 

The Tigers racked up a bunch of miscues, but none bigger than a first-and-goal botched handoff by sophomore quarterback Cade Klubnik to Phil Mafah that the Blue Devils’ Jaylen Stinson scooped off the turf and began sprinting toward the other end zone.

Stinson was eventually taken down by Klubnik at Clemson’s 33-yard line – and Duke made them pay six plays later. 

Jaquez Moore took a nine-yard run into the end zone, and after choosing to go for two, quarterback Riley Leonard found Jalon Calhoun to make it a 21-7 game. 


Riley Leonard looks to throw

Duke Blue Devils QB Riley Leonard (13) passes during the second quarter against the Clemson Tigers at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. (Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports)

But the Tigers’ blunders began early in the first quarter, when Robert Gunn III’s 41-yard field goal was blocked by Wesley Williams to keep the Blue Devils’ lead at 3-0. 

In the second half, Gunn had a horrific shank on a 23-yard field goal that would’ve made it a 13-10 game still in favor of Duke. Later in the third quarter, Klubnik fumbled on Duke’s 7-yard line, which the Blue Devils’ Jeremiah Lewis recovered to avoid the Clemson threat. 

The Blue Devils had their own ball security issues, as a Calhoun fumble on a punt return led to Clemson’s first touchdown in the second quarter. Moore also fumbled on the 12th play of a solid drive near the end of the first half that was recovered by Clemson. 

But in the end, Leonard and the Blue Devils’ offense were able to make it hurt in the second half. 

It all started with a 44-yard touchdown run by Leonard to start the second half, quickly giving Duke the lead back at 13-7.

Leonard didn’t have his best passing game, going 17 for 33 for 175 yards. However, he led the Blue Devils with 98 rush yards and his touchdown on just eight attempts. 

There was also an interesting call made on a crucial fourth-and-7 in the fourth quarter with Clemson having the ball. Klubnik tried to scramble for the first down, and thinking he had enough yardage, he slid with the Blue Devils’ defense sprinting toward him. 

Klubnik was ruled behind the first down marker, though a flag was thrown on the play after senior linebacker Cam Dillon was called for clear targeting by smashing his helmet into Klubnik’s while he was sliding. 

However, since it was ruled targeting, which is a dead ball foul, Duke was still awarded the ball with Klubnik not getting enough yards for the first down. 

Jordan Waters runs

Duke Blue Devils RB Jordan Waters (7) runs during the second quarter against the Clemson Tigers at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. (Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports)

The Blue Devils didn’t make that turnover hurt, but they did collect another once Clemson got the ball back. A tipped pass from Klubnik found the hands of Dorian Mausi, and Duke capped off their blowout with a 36-yard touchdown run by Waters. 

The touchdown sent the home crowd into a frenzy, and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney couldn’t believe his eyes as he knew his team was starting the season with a 0-1 record. Fans stormed Brooks Field from the stands after the game was over, celebrating the largest margin of victory for Duke against Clemson since 1936. 

Waters finished with 63 rushing yards on 11 attempts with his touchdown, while catching three passes for a team-leading 46 yards. 

Klubnik’s debut as a starter for Clemson produced a 27 for 43 line for 209 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception. Will Shipley had 114 yards on the ground for the Tigers, while catching Klubnik’s touchdown pass as one of his six receptions for 29 yards. 

Vincent Anthony Jr. celebrates play

Vincent Anthony Jr. #19 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts following a defensive stop against the Clemson Tigers during the first half of the game at Wallace Wade Stadium on Sept. 4, 2023, in Durham, North Carolina. (Lance King/Getty Images)


With the win, Duke joined the likes of Colorado and Texas State, who pulled off massive upsets against TCU and Baylor respectively.

POST AUTHOR: Scott Thompson

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