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Kentucky falls to Clemson: 4 things to know and postgame banter

A wild game ends with a loss to the No. 22 Tigers.

Syndication: Florida Times-Union Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Unio / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Kentucky Wildcats lose a heartbreaker to the Clemson Tigers, 38-35.

After taking a 35-30 lead late in the fourth, the Kentucky defense collapses in coverage on Clemson’s final drive to give the Tigers the win over Kentucky.

The final Clemson drive of the game may have been the worst drive all season long for Kentucky and Brad White.

Kentucky jumped out to a 21-10 lead thanks to Barion Brown’s kickoff return to start the second half, but untimely mistakes and some conservative play-calling proved to be the downfall for Kentucky.

Kentucky allowed 28 second-half points to the Tigers.

The game was sealed when Devin Leary threw his second interception of the day on a potential game-tying drive with 17 seconds left.

Kentucky now goes 7-6 in back-to-back seasons, a disappointment for sure. However, Kentucky will look to build on the transfer portal class going into the 2024 season.

Brock Vandagriff will now take over as QB1 for a Kentucky team that much needs a fresh start.

Here’s what to know from the game.

Self-inflicted mistakes

What seems like a common occurrence for the 2023 season, Kentucky again just could not get out of their own way. The second half was marred by self-inflicted mistakes on offense — a crucial Jordan Dingle holding call negating a 32-yard rush by Barion Brown, a couple of very preventable Devin Leary turnovers, a few defensive breakdowns leading to missed assignments, and VERY critical Barion Brown fumble late in the fourth — all led to Kentucky blowing a double-digit lead and allowing Clemson to hang around and eventually win the game.

Defensive pressure

For what seemed like the first time all season long, the Kentucky defensive front got constant pressure on Cade Klubnik all game long. With a staggering six quarterback sacks, the front line, spearheaded by Deone Walker, played their best game all season long after a season of question marks. The defensive front also drilled Klubnik in the fourth quarter, forcing an errant throw leading to an interception.

Sadly, Kentucky opted not to bring pressure on that critical 3rd-and-18 play in the final minutes, and it cost them dearly.

Talent

Kentucky matched Clemson talent-for-talent on the field, which is something that could not be said even just five years ago, especially during the mid-2010s, when Clemson was winning and/or competing in the College Football Playoff every single year.

While Clemson has been the sufferer of opt-outs and transfers after the end of the regular season, so has Kentucky, and the talent on Kentucky’s roster was just as good, if not better than what was on Dabo Sweeney’s sideline.

Barion Brown

Barion Brown was maybe, along with the defensive pressure, the only reason that Kentucky was in this game. Brown had three touchdowns — two receiving and one on the opening kickoff of the second half — for a total of 224 yards. He’s a star. Let’s hope Kentucky can keep him out of the transfer portal.

Now, let’s discuss the game.