Postgame notes on Clemson's 2023 Gator Bowl win over Kentucky

Postgame notes on Clemson's 2023 Gator Bowl win over Kentucky

by -


Clemson has now won at least one postseason game (conference championship, bowl game and/or national championship game) in 13 consecutive seasons, extending the longest streak on record in major college football history.

Clemson won nine games in a season for the 31st time in school history. It is Clemson's 13th consecutive nine-win season and its 14th overall in Dabo Swinney's 15 full seasons as head coach.

Clemson and Alabama are the only programs in the country with active streaks of at least 13 consecutive seasons with at least nine wins.

Clemson tied Yale (13 straight from 1886-98) for the fourth-most consecutive nine-win seasons in major college football history, trailing only Nebraska (33 from 1969-2001), Alabama (16 from 2008-23) and Florida State (14 from 1987-2000).

Clemson won by scoring in the final two minutes of regulation for the first time since the 2019 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. The players responsible for the game-winning touchdown in that game — quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne — were both in attendance for the Gator Bowl.

Clemson’s 11-point deficit overcome was its largest in a bowl game since overcoming a 16-point deficit against Ohio State in that 2019 Fiesta Bowl win. It was Clemson’s largest fourth-quarter deficit overcome in a bowl game, surpassing its 10-point deficit overcome in the fourth quarter against Alabama to win the 2016 national championship.

Clemson evened its all-time Gator Bowl record at 5-5.

With his 12th career bowl win, Dabo Swinney broke Bobby Bowden’s ACC record (11) for the most career bowl wins leading an ACC program.

Clemson earned its sixth victory in its all-time series with Kentucky.

Clemson improved to 3-1 all-time in postseason games against Kentucky.

Clemson played its second straight SEC opponent and recorded its second win in that span to give the Tigers wins against SEC teams in consecutive games for the first time since the 2012 season finale against LSU and the 2013 season opener against Georgia. Clemson is in the midst of a three-game stretch against SEC teams across the 2023-24 seasons (South Carolina and Kentucky to end 2023 and Georgia to open 2024).

Clemson improved to 14-6 against SEC opponents since 2015. The Clemson win made Kentucky the sixth different SEC opponent defeated by Clemson in that span, joining Alabama, Auburn, LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M.

Clemson improved to 21-12 in games at NFL stadiums under Swinney and 18-8 at NFL stadiums since 2015.

Clemson faced Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops for the first time and improved to 163-73-3 all-time (and 46-7 since 2011) when facing a coach for the first time.

Clemson improved to 3-0 against the Stoops family including postseason victories against Mark Stoops' brother, Bob, in 2014 and 2015 during Bob's tenure at Oklahoma.

Clemson improved to 131-18 against AP-unranked teams under Swinney and improved to 108-8 in those games since the start of the 2012 season.

Clemson's senior class (40-12) became the 11th senior class in program history to earn 40 wins in a four-year span. Clemson's seniors became the fifth active class in the country to accomplish the feat (Note: Notre Dame and Liberty's classes can also reach 40 wins with a victory in their respective bowls).

Clemson improved to 80-6 when scoring first since 2015. Clemson was 5-1 in 2023 in games in which it scored first.

Clemson earned its first win of the year in a game in which it trailed at halftime. It was Clemson’s first win after trailing after two quarters since its 2022 win against Syracuse. Clemson trailed by 11 points in the fourth quarter in that contest just as it did in the Gator Bowl.

Clemson earned its 17th overall win in Swinney’s tenure when trailing at halftime and its 14th win in that span when trailing after three quarters.

Clemson now has a 131-8 record when totaling more first downs than its opponent since 2011.

Clemson improved to 78-4 record when winning the turnover margin since 2011.

Clemson improved to 38-1 since 2015 when intercepting multiple passes in a game.

Clemson has won 17 of its last 18 December games.

Clemson improved to 38-11 in one-possession games since 2011, the highest winning percentage in the country in one-score games in that span (.776).


Clemson made its 50th bowl appearance in school history. Clemson became the 12th program in the nation to appear in 50 bowl games all-time.

Clemson made its 10th Gator Bowl appearance all-time, its most of any bowl game.

Clemson became the first program in history to appear in 10 Gator Bowls.

The game included five fourth-quarter lead changes, all of which came in the final 6:45 of game time.

Clemson’s 28 points in the fourth quarter were Clemson’s most in a fourth quarter in its bowl history. It also tied for the most in a fourth quarter of any game in Clemson history, tying four such games.

Clemson matched a season high with four takeaways, all of which came in the fourth quarter. It was Clemson’s third four-takeaway game of the season and Clemson’s first four-takeaway bowl game since the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl.

Clemson won the turnover margin, 4-1. Clemson won the turnover margin for a fifth consecutive game for the first time since a nine-game streak in 2019. Clemson finished the season 7-0 this year when it won the turnover margin and 2-4 when it did not.

Clemson has now recorded multiple takeaways in five consecutive games for the first time since the final three games of 2018 and the first two games of 2019. Clemson finished the season with 28 takeaways, its most since 2019 (30 in 15 games).

Running back Phil Mafah rushed 11 times for 71 yards with a career-high four rushing touchdowns, earning Most Valuable Player honors.

Mafah’s four rushing touchdowns broke the Clemson bowl record (three by Tracy Johnson vs. Penn State in the 1988 Citrus Bowl) and broke the Gator Bowl record (three set by many players).

Mafah became the first Clemson player to rush for four touchdowns in a game since C.J. Spiller against Georgia Tech in the 2009 ACC Championship Game.

With his 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th rushing touchdowns of the year, Mafah gave Clemson at least one player with double-digit rushing touchdowns in nine consecutive seasons.

Mafah’s first two touchdowns of the game came on one-yard plunges in the second and fourth quarters.

Mafah’s third touchdown was a 29-yard go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. He added the game-winning score on a three-yard run with 17 seconds remaining.

Mafah became the first Clemson player to score three touchdowns in any single quarter since DeAndre Hopkins against Duke in 2012. He is also the first Clemson player in Stats Perform’s data set back to 1996 to score three touchdowns in a fourth quarter specifically.

Mafah (965) and running back Will Shipley (827) became the fifth Clemson duo (including quarterbacks) since 1948 to each rush for 800 yards in a single season. They became only the third running back duo to accomplish the feat, joining C.J Spiller/James Davis in 2006 and Kenny Flowers/Stacey Driver in 1985.

Clemson has scored at least one rushing touchdown in a national-best 78 of its 82 games since the start of the 2018 season. Clemson has also rushed for multiple touchdowns in a national-best 65 games in that span.

Running back Will Shipley led Clemson with 132 all-purpose yards.

Shipley recorded a then-season-long 34-yard kickoff return on the game’s opening kickoff.

Shipley added a new season-long kickoff return with a 60-yard return in the fourth quarter.

With 94 kickoff return yards in the game, Shipley (904) entered the Top 10 in Clemson history in career kickoff return yards, passing Warren Ratchford (848 from 1974-78) for 10th.

Shipley’s 94 kickoff return yards were the second-most of his career, trailing his 107 against Pitt in 2021.

Tight end Jake Briningstool led Clemson in receptions (nine) and receiving yards (91).

Briningstool’s nine receptions tied the Clemson single-game school record for receptions by a tight end, matching John McMakin (vs. Florida State in 1970) and Brandon Ford (vs. LSU in 2012).

Briningstool’s ninth reception of the game was his 50th of the season, tying the single-season school record for receptions by a tight end set by Dwayne Allen in 2011 (50).

With 91 yards in the Gator Bowl, Briningstool finished the year with a career-high 498 receiving yards, two yards shy of posting the first 500-yard season by a Clemson tight end since Jordan Leggett in 2016 (736).

Quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 30-of-41 passes for 264 yards. He led Clemson on a 12-play, 68-yard game-winning drive in 2:17 of elapsed game time for the victory.

Klubnik was 8-for-8 for 71 yards on Clemson’s game-winning drive.

With his 13th completion of the game, Klubnik (351) passed Rodney Williams (333 from 1985-88) to enter the Top 10 in Clemson history in career completions.

On his 29th completion of the game, Klubnik (351) became the 13th player in school history to complete 350 career passes.

During the game, Klubnik (3,541) entered the Top 15 in Clemson history in career passing yards. He became the 15th player in Clemson history to reach 3,500 career passing yards.

Klubnik (290) finished the season with the fourth-most pass completions in a single season in Clemson history.

Klubnik (579) finished the season with the most plays of total offense (combined rushing attempts and passing attempts) by a Clemson player in a single season since Kelly Bryant in 2017 (590).

Tight end Olsen Patt-Henry recorded a career-long 25-yard catch in the third quarter.

With 80 plays against Kentucky, Clemson (998) was two plays shy of producing the 10th 1,000-play season in school history.

Including its 367 yards against Kentucky, Clemson (5,235) produced its 12th 5,000-yard season in the last 13 years. It represents Clemson's 13th 5,000-yard season in Dabo Swinney's 15 full seasons.

Clemson’s 30 completions against Kentucky gave Clemson its 11th 300-completion season in school history (302).

Linebacker Barrett Carter was credited with five tackles, three pass breakups, an interception, a fumble recovery and a half-sack.

Carter and defensive end T.J. Parker split a second-quarter sack.

Parker finished his debut campaign with 5.5 sacks, third-most by a true freshman in Clemson history.

With 1.5 tackles for loss in the game, Parker (12.5) broke Myles Murphy's true freshman school record of 12.0. The overall freshman school record remains 15.0 by redshirt freshman Michael Dean Perry in 1984.

Clemson recorded the game’s first takeaway early in the fourth quarter. In their final game of their careers, sixth-year defensive ends Xavier Thomas and Justin Mascoll combined for the takeaway, with Thomas forcing a fumble on a sack that was recovered by Mascoll.

The forced fumble was the sixth of Thomas’ career. The recovery was the second of Mascoll’s career and his first since 2020.

On Kentucky’s next possession, Carter recorded his first interception of the season, the third of his career.

Clemson recorded a takeaway on three straight possessions on Kentucky’s next drive when Carter recovered a fumble forced by safety Khalil Barnes. It was Clemson’s second time this season forcing a takeaway on three straight drives (vs. Georgia Tech in November).

With his third forced fumble of the season, Barnes joined Myles Murphy (three in 2020) as the only Clemson freshmen under Dabo Swinney to force three fumbles in a season. Barnes, Murphy and Ed McDaniel are the only Clemson freshmen (true or redshirt) with three forced fumbles in a season since 1988.

Cornerback Shelton Lewis sealed the victory with his second career interception with nine seconds remaining.

With four punts downed inside the 20, punter Aidan Swanson (28) tied Bradley Pinion's school record for punts inside the 20 in a single season (28 in 2014).

Placekicker Jonathan Weitz tied a career-high with a 3-for-3 performance on field goals.

Clemson opened the scoring on a 39-yard field goal by Weitz on the game’s opening possession.

Weitz added field goals of 28 yards and 52 yards in the fourth quarter.

Weitz’s three field goals tied the Clemson bowl record set by several players.

Weitz became the first Clemson player with three field goals in consecutive games since B.T. Potter against Wake Forest and NC State last season.

Weitz’s dramatic go-ahead 52-yard field goal was a career long and tied the Clemson bowl record set by Potter in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game to end the 2019 season.

After starting the season 8-for-14, Weitz finished the season 6-for-6 in the final two games of his career, his longest career streak of consecutive made field goals.

Offensive lineman Will Putnam played his 60th career game to become the first offensive lineman in school history to play 60 career games.

With their 60th career game appearances, Putnam and safety Jalyn Phillips joined seven previous players in school history among those who played 60 career games at Clemson (P Will Spiers, WR/H Will Swinney, LB James Skalski, PK B.T. Potter, S Nolan Turner, DE Justin Mascoll and DE Xavier Thomas).

Putnam made his 49th career start to tie tackle Landon Walker and center Dalton Freeman for the second-most career starts by an offensive lineman in school history.

Putnam recorded his 49th consecutive start to tie center Dalton Freeman's school record by a non-specialist (49 from 2009-12).

On his 20th offensive snap of the game, Putnam became the second player on record in Clemson history to play 3,500 career snaps from scrimmage. He finished his career ranked second in career snaps from scrimmage in Clemson history behind only Mitch Hyatt (3,754 from 2015-18).

Defensive tackle Tyler Davis made his 52nd career start to extend his Clemson record for the most career starts by a defensive player.

Davis tied PK Chandler Catanzaro (52) for the fourth-most career starts in Clemson history.

Head Coach Dabo Swinney became the first person to lead a team in 20 career bowl games as an ACC head coach.

The game was a matchup of two of the seven longest-tenured head coaches in the FBS (Swinney, sixth, and Mark Stoops, seventh).

In the 1993 Peach Bowl against Kentucky (a game in which current Clemson offensive lineman Walker Parks’ father, David, was playing for Kentucky), Clemson won on a touchdown pass by Patrick Sapp with less than a minute remaining. Today, his son, Josh Sapp, scored Clemson’s final points on a two-point conversion against Kentucky in the final minute.

This season, Clemson faced multiple SEC opponents in a season for the 17th time in the last 18 years, dating to 2006. The lone exception came in 2020 when the SEC opted out of non-conference play amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clemson elected permanent team captains for the 2023 season prior to the Gator Bowl. Clemson’s captains were defensive tackle Tyler Davis, wide receiver Hamp Greene, defensive end Justin Mascoll, center Will Putnam, running back Will Shipley and placekicker Jonathan Weitz.

Ultimate Level LogoUpgrade Your Account

Unlock premium boards and exclusive features (e.g. ad-free) by upgrading your account today.

Upgrade Now
Comment on this story
Report: Clemson to host basketball blue blood in ACC/SEC challenge
Report: Clemson to host basketball blue blood in ACC/SEC challenge
Clemson pitcher farewell message to Tiger fans after transfer portal entry
Clemson pitcher farewell message to Tiger fans after transfer portal entry
Two Tigers earn All-American honors
Two Tigers earn All-American honors
WATCH: Bakich, players wrap Clemson season, look ahead
WATCH: Bakich, players wrap Clemson season, look ahead
Post your comments!