Clemson's Cade Klubnik vs UNC's Drake Maye is the future of ACC football

CHARLOTTE – If you had Cade Klubnik outplaying Drake Maye in Saturday’s ACC Championship Game, raise your hand.

Now slap yourself for lying.

Embattled quarterback DJ Uiagalelei started the game, as he had every game this season.

But Klubnik finished. In a big way.

Clemson’s offense gained a total of 12 yards and no first downs on its first two possessions.

Enter Klubnik.

The freshman gunslinger out of Texas quickly began making his mark, driving the Tigers to scores on each of their remaining possessions of the first half to provide a 24-10 lead that turned into an eventual 39-10 domination. Klubnik completed his first 10 passes and was 10-of-11 for 149 yards and a touchdown in the opening half; he also had a 1-yard touchdown run.

And he was just getting started.

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“We knew we were going to put him in the third or fourth series, and he went in and he never came out,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.

He may never come out again.

Let Klubnik Mania begin.

The quarterback change that many Clemson fans had been anticipating finally came to fruition, leaving Uiagalelei’s future in doubt.

Not in doubt is the future of the two freshman quarterbacks who waged a shootout at Bank of America Stadium in downtown Charlotte Saturday night.

Between Klubnik and Maye – North Carolina’s sensational rookie who up until a couple of weeks ago was considered a contender for the Heisman – we were treated to a glimpse of the future.

Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik (2) is hoisted by offensive lineman Mitchell Mayes (77) near North Carolina linebacker Power Echols (23), after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter of the ACC Championship football game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina Saturday, Dec 3, 2022.
Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik (2) is hoisted by offensive lineman Mitchell Mayes (77) near North Carolina linebacker Power Echols (23), after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter of the ACC Championship football game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina Saturday, Dec 3, 2022.

These two are capable of providing plenty of offensive fireworks during the next few seasons. They’ll enter the 2023 season with heightened expectations, as will their teams.

“None of us knew when we sat and talked this past summer what his performance would be like,” North Carolina coach Mack Brown said of Maye. “That was an unknown. But he and our receivers have just been absolutely amazing.”

No question there. Maye, a redshirt freshman, passed for more than 4,000 yards this season – an ACC record for a freshman – and had 35 touchdown passes against only five interceptions.

Klubnik on the other hand, entered the game with 98 passing yards and 11 completions in extremely limited play this season. But he proved a whirling dervish once unleashed.

He checked out of the game early in the fourth quarter having completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and having outplayed Maye, who passed for 268 yards but no touchdowns and was intercepted twice.

The kid in Clemson orange became the game’s MVP and outdueled the kid in Carolina blue by any measure, but one gets the sense that their battles are far from over. This could be just the beginning of some epic confrontations.

We won’t have to wait long to witness the next installment – North Carolina plays at Clemson in the 2023 regular season for the first time since 2014.

This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Cade Klubnik vs Drake Maye is the future of ACC football