Midyear enrollee Khalil Barnes’ 22-yard interception return for touchdown with fewer than two minutes to play gave the White squad, led by Running Backs Coach C.J. Spiller, a 20-13 victory against the Orange squad, led by Defensive Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Tackles Coach Nick Eason, on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The game attracted a crowd of 50,000 people, the fifth-largest crowd on record for a Clemson Spring Game. Clemson legends Dexter Lawrence (Orange) and Wayne Gallman (White) served as honorary coaches for their respective squads.
White team quarterback Cade Klubnik completed eight of his first nine pass attempts for 62 yards. He finished the contest 18-for-33 for 190 yards. Orange team running back Domonique Thomas was the game’s leading rusher, carrying 14 times for 63 yards and a touchdown.
The defenses combined for seven sacks and four interceptions. Sherrod Covil Jr. and Bubba McAtee posted a team-high six tackles for the White squad, while Barrett Carter, Peter Woods and Kylon Griffin tied for the Orange team lead with seven stops each.
This year’s intrasquad scrimmage featured a slight change in roster construction from recent years. Whereas the top offensive and defensive units were usually split between the Orange and White teams, this year, Head Coach Dabo Swinney opted to keep each unit intact and pit the team’s top available offense against the top available defense. While position coaches and the entire Clemson Football support staff were split, coordinators Garrett Riley and Wes Goodwin called plays for both squads.
After the Orange team made a stop on the game’s opening possession by the White squad, kicker Liam Boyd opened the game’s scoring by converting a 51-yard attempt on the Orange team’s opening possession. The Orange team’s scoring drive covered 47 yards in 10 plays.
The White team responded on its second possession, as an impressive 19-yard run by running back Phil Mafah on the drive’s ninth play put the White team on the Orange two-yard yard. Mafah then plunged into the end zone on the following play to take a 7-3 lead.
In the middle of the second quarter, the White team looked primed to extend its lead on a fourth-and-goal at the Orange two-yard-line. However, midyear enrollee Jamal Anderson deflected a Klubnik pass that was intercepted by safety R.J. Mickens at the Orange five-yard line to end a 12-play drive without points.
The Orange team recorded a second interception of Klubnik on the first play of the White team’s next possession. Safety Andrew Mukuba picked off a ball deflected by cornerback Nate Wiggins and returned the interception 40 yards to the two-yard line. The Orange team needed only one play to convert the turnover into points, as Thomas rushed for a touchdown to give the Orange squad a 10-7 lead it would take into halftime.
Kicker Quinn Castner extended the Orange lead to 13-7 on the final play of the third quarter. His 32-yard field marked the culmination of a nine-play, 58-yard drive.
In the fourth quarter, the White team engineered a 14-play, 75-yard drive for what appeared to be the go-ahead score. However, after running back Keith Adams Jr. scored on a one-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 13-13, the ensuing PAT attempt was blocked by midyear enrollee Peter Woods to keep the score level.
The Orange team got the ball with 1:46 to play in search of a game-winning drive. Instead, on the drive’s opening play, Barnes stepped in front of a pass by midyear enrollee QB Christopher Vizzina and returned the interception 22 yards for the game-winning pick six.
The contest completed Clemson’s 15-session spring practice window and offered Clemson fans a glimpse of the returning ACC Champions. Clemson will add an additional 12 signees from its 2023 recruiting class this summer in advance of fall camp starting in August.
Season ticket requests for the 2023 season remain open. Clemson is in pursuit of a 13th consecutive season with 10-plus wins and Dabo Swinney’s is chasing Frank Howard’s school record for career head coaching wins.
In addition to early-season non-conference contests against Charleston Southern and Florida Atlantic, Clemson’s 2023 home slate includes marquee ACC games against Florida State, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and North Carolina as well as Notre Dame’s first visit to Death Valley since 2015.