Welcome Back, Clemson-Ing: Duke Drives Dabo Swinney Into Despair Behind Stellar Defense And Riley Leonard

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It’s been a while since we’ve heard the terms ‘Clemsoning’, but it returned in magnificent fashion thanks to the Duke football team. After an off-season filled with questions, Clemson fell dramatically short of looking like a team worthy of fighting for an ACC title, losing 28-7 in horrible fashion.

It was Tim Elko’s Duke Blue Devils who decided to keep college football fans on the edge of their couches Monday night, pulling off the impressive upset. From the first offensive series, Clemson fans were expressing their frustrations with this new offense on social media, somehow hoping to tweet their way through the tense moments.

Clemson has now lost three of its last four games, while the last time Duke beat a top-ten team was in 1989, against Clemson.

It didn’t matter, especially with Duke quarterback Riley Leonard finding multiple ways to cause Tiger fans to put up the ‘surrender cobra’, in the first half. Even though Duke had its moments on offense, on the way to a win, Clemson found impressive ways to lose.

This was just one example of Clemson failing to take advantage of an opportunity, fumbling at the 1-yard line, with Duke scoring just five plays later.

The look on Dabo Swinney’s face during the second half said it all. They might have multiple skill players on offense, but the Tigers will face a long season if they cannot figure out a way to prevent these mistakes.

Adding insult to injury, Clemson had a stretch of five red-zone appearances that resulted in only seven total points. For as good as Cade Klubnik looked at times tonight, with the help of Will Shipley, nothing seemed to come easy for the Tigers.

Duke QB Riley Leonard scrambles for the touchdown against Clemson
Duke QB Riley Leonard scrambles for a touchdown against Clemson. (Photo courtesy of Duke Athletics)

Duke QB Riley Leonard Had Clemson’s Defense On Skates

There were times during Monday’s game that QB Riley Leonard looked like the guy who should be playing on a title contending team. Who knows, maybe Duke makes a run towards the ACC title, but the Fairhope, Alabama native caused problems for Clemson all evening.

One play in particular sent the Duke crowd into a frenzy, as Leonard broke multiple tackles, then tightroped the sideline for a touchdown. If there was a point in the game where college football fans thought Clemson was in serious trouble, it was this touchdown run.

Duke beating a top-ten football team by two touchdowns was the wildest way to finish the Labor Day weekend. If you look up the word ‘Clemsoning’, it will have some type of reference to fumbling the ball twice inside the 10-yard line.


As the clock his 3:15 left in the fourth quarter, Duke scored on a 35-yard run by Jordan Waters, while Clemson fans sat in the stadium wondering what the heck had just happened. The score was 28-7 and Dabo Swinney just looked down at his play-sheet.

Duke coach Mike Elko found it hard to hold back the smile, which he finally showed the television crowd as the student section stormed the field.

The Blue Devils pulling off the upset is a major storyline, but Clemson laying an egg in the season-opener could lead to a rough season for Dabo Swinney.

Written by Trey Wallace

Trey Wallace is the host of The Trey Wallace Podcast that focuses on a mixture of sports, culture, entertainment along with his perspective on everything from College Football to the College World Series.

Wallace has been covering college sports for 15 years, starting off while attending the University of South Alabama. He’s broken some of the biggest college stories including the Florida football “Credit Card Scandal” along with the firing of Jim McElwin and Kevin Sumlin. Wallace also broke one of the biggest stories in college football in 2020 around the NCAA investigation into recruiting violations against Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt.

Wallace also appears on radio across seven different states breaking down that latest news in college sports.

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