Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei was benched after throwing two interceptions in the Tigers’ 27-17 loss to No. 23 Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon. Uiagalelei was reinserted on the Tigers’ final possession — a five-play touchdown drive — but it wasn’t enough to cut the double-digit deficit.
Uiagalelei was benched in the third quarter after Pitt linebacker Sirvocea Dennis read a shovel pass perfectly, intercepting it for a 50-yard pick-six to give the Panthers a 14-point advantage. It was Uiagalelei’s final pass before being benched in favor of backup quarterback Taisun Phommachanh, who saw his first major action since throwing for 75 yards against FCS South Carolina State.
The Tigers backup led the offense on a field goal-drive to cut the score to 21-10 in the third quarter. However, he completed just 3-of-7 passes for 23 yards and rushed for 15 yards in his two drives of action. Clemson was outscored 6-3 with Phommachanh in the game.
Clemson’s offense has been a slog all season and Saturday’s loss was no exception. Uiagalelei completed just 12-of-25 passes for 129 yards and two picks, while also adding 50 yards rushing. Pitt QB Kenny Pickett, a Heisman contender, threw for 302 yards and 2 touchdowns in one of the biggest wins since the program entered the ACC.
Uiagelelei has struggled mightily since entering the 2021 season as an early favorite for the Heisman Trophy. The sophomore has completed just 55.7% of his passes for 974 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. His passer rating ranks last in the ACC among qualified quarterbacks, a shocking turn from fielding elite quarterback play with No. 1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence under center.
Phommachanh suffered an Achilles injury in the Clemson spring game, but miraculously returned just months later in time for training camp, where he locked up the No. 2 job in practice. Phommachanh was rated the No. 4 dual-threat passer in the class of 2019 before arriving at Clemson.