Clemson endured a slow start from quarterback Trevor Lawrence before knocking Louisville down for the count with a flurry of haymakers and smothering defense in the second half of a 45-10 victory, Saturday. Lawrence threw his seventh and eighth interceptions of the season in the opening quarter before settling in to find receivers Joseph Ngata, Justyn Ross and Cornell Powell for scores. Lawrence finished the game 20 of 29 for 233 yards and 3 touchdowns. Travis Etienne, on the other hand, was effective out of the gate, rushing for 192 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. The game also featured a literal haymaker thrown by Clemson defensive back Andrew Booth following a Louisville punt. Booth was ejected for the punch and head coach Dabo Swinney expressed his disappointment in his postgame comments, “That’s not who we are and not who he is. He is one of the best young people from an unbelievable family … There will be some consequences involved with that and I apologized to Coach Satterfield.”
Brent Venables’ unit was fantastic, forcing three turnovers and limiting Louisville to 263 yards. In an extension of last week’s brilliant performance, linebacker Isaiah Simmons again wreaked havoc with 8 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.
Questions persist as to why this Clemson offense struggles to find consistency early before inevitably hitting its stride and compiling the necessary yardage (551) and points (45) to win comfortably. Whatever the reasons, the recipe of big plays, Travis Etienne and great defense has the Tigers (7-0) closing in on another trip to the College Football Playoff. Clemson returns to Death Valley next Saturday for a homecoming date with Boston College.
My recap from Cardinal Stadium HERE
- Guard John Simpson, running back Travis Etienne and receiver Amari Rodgers all left with apparent injuries, but coach Swinney said they all could have returned and were held out for precautionary reasons.
- Opposing teams are now just 4 of 13 on 4th down this season against Clemson after Louisville was turned away on 4th and 1 in the 3rd quarter.
- Freshman Joseph Ngata made two of the biggest plays in the first half. He scored the game’s first touchdown on a six-yard reception and saved a Louisville touchdown by recovering Derion Kendrick’s muffed punt in the first quarter. Ngata later added a long kick return to start the 3rd quarter.
- Clemson’s athletic receivers were difference-makers in the first half as Amari Rodgers turned a short pass into a 61-yard gain after shedding a defender and Justyn Ross put the Tigers up 17-3 with a leaping catch to close out the 1st half.
- The Tigers were hampered by a pair of interceptions in the first half but were able to build a lead through big plays from Amari Rodgers and Travis Etienne. Etienne rushed for 92 yards on just seven carries in the first half.
- Clemson led in most statistical categories including totals yards (284-157), yards/play (9.5-4.5) and sack-adjusted yards/rush (10.3-4.3) at intermission. The advantage in total yardage expanded to 403-177 by the end of the third quarter and 551-263 for the game.
- Louisville’s Javian Hawkins rushed for 129 yards, ending Clemson’s 27-game streak of limiting individual rushers to less than 100 yards.
- Brent Venables’ defense entered the game surrendering just 12.3 ppg. Louisville entered the game averaging 37 ppg offensively.
- Kicker BT Potter made a 51-yard field goal a week after losing his position on PATs and short field goals. Steven Sawicki was 2 for 2 on PATs before missing on a 44-yard attempt in the 3rd quarter and giving way to Potter for the rest of the afternoon. Coach Swinney said the kicking job is a “short-term” contract right now.
Head coach Dabo Swinney (22 consecutive wins)
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables (defense has held opponent under 300 yards in seven straight games)
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence (20-29 for 233 yards, 3 TDs and 2 ints)
Running back Travis Etienne (14 carries, 192 yards, 1 touchdown)