Story by Nikki Hood
DEATH VALLEY: After a rough weekend in South Bend, a 31-16 victory to win the Atlantic Division outright was just what the doctor ordered for the Clemson Tigers. On a perfect fall afternoon that saw Clemson honor the country’s heroes, the tenth-ranked Tigers improved to 9-1 overall and 7-0 in the ACC. Louisville fell to 6-4 overall and 3-4 in conference.
DJ Uiagalelei rebounded after two rough weeks and finished the game 19-of-27 for 185 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also carried the ball 15 times for 32 yards and a score. Phil Mafah was the game’s leading rusher with ten carries for 106 yards and a touchdown. Will Shipley added 97 yards and a touchdown. Antonio Williams led all receivers with ten catches for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Jordan Jawhar led Louisville with 11 carries for 73 yards, while Tyler Hudson had ten catches for 139 yards.
Out of the gate, Clemson’s offense was everything that it wasn’t last week at Notre Dame with a good mix of passes downfield and the quarterback run.
Uiagalelei carried the ball on the first two plays of the game and then, facing a third-and-15, connected with Joseph Ngata for 24 yards down the sideline to keep the drive alive. Later in the drive, Shipley slipped through the middle of the line for a 17-yard pickup. Two plays later, Uiagalelei kept the ball and bounced off defenders on his way to the end zone and a 7-0 Clemson lead with 10:17 to play in the first quarter.
On Clemson’s third series, Uiagalelei again came out firing with an eight-yard completion to Drew Swinney and a 36-yard completion to Williams down the Louisville sideline. After a seven-yard rush by Phil Mafah, Clemson’s offense stalled at the two-yard line and had to settle for a 19-yard BT Potter field goal. Clemson led 10-0 with just over two minutes to go in the opening stanza.
After back-to-back three-and-outs, Louisville’s offense began to find its groove. On third-and-12, the left side of the field was wide open for Jawhar Jordan, who raced for 44-yards into Clemson territory. On the next play, Cunningham found Tyler Hudson down the sideline for a 19-yard pickup. Two plays later, Tiyon Evans raced eight yards untouched for the Cards’ first touchdown of the game and trimmed Clemson’s lead to 10-7 at the 14:17 mark of the second quarter.
Clemson got the ball back with 4:29 to play before halftime and put together a perfectly executed scoring drive. Shipley carried the ball on the first two plays of the drive for 17 yards. Uiagalelei then hit Davis Allen and Brannon Spector for completions of 14 and 11 yards. Pass interference on third down kept the drive alive. Two plays later, Uiagalelei hit Williams across the middle for a four-yard touchdown and a 17-7 lead with under a minute to play before intermission.
Brock Domann replaced Malik Cunningham at quarterback to begin the second half after Cunningham appeared to suffer an injury on the final play of the first half.
Mafah and Shipley took over on Clemson’s first drive of the second half. Mafah had a 25-yard gain on the drive’s second play to put the Tigers at the Louisville 43-yard line. After a series of short completions, Shipley hit a hole in the middle of the line, hurdled a Louisville defender, and split two more Cards on his way to a 25-yard touchdown to extend Clemson’s lead to 24-7.
Louisville answered with an eight-play, 70-yard drive that Domann completed three passes for 73 yards, including a 54-yard completion to Hudson. Clemson linebacker Wade Woodaz sacked Domann for a loss of 10 yards, but he got eight yards back on the next play setting up a 22-yard James Turner field goal with 5:57 to play in the third quarter. Clemson led 24-10 after the make.
Phil Mafah added a 39-yard touchdown with 2:13 to play to extend Clemson’s lead to 31-10. On the final play of the game, Domann found Braden Smith for a 31-yard touchdown as time expired.
Clemson will look to wrap up a perfect conference season next week against Miami (FL) on Senior Day at Death Valley.