Clemson defeated Louisville Saturday night 47-21 and left no doubt that they were the better team. After three straight years of close wins against the Cardinals, the Tigers put this game away early in the 3rd quarter after Dorian O'Daniel intercepted Lamar Jackson and returned it for a touchdown. That score put Clemson up 26-7 with 9 minutes left in the quarter, but the scoring wasn't over as Clemson would go on to score 21 more points. Don't be fooled by the final score; Louisville scored 14 of their 21 points in the 4th quarter after Clemson subbed in second and third team players. Louisville decided to leave Lamar Jackson in the entire game (Sad!), so at least he will have those stats! Enough about Lamar and Louisville, let's get to the Clemson players of the game.
Offense: Kelly Bryant, Ray-Ray McCloud, and Hunter Renfrow
The entire Clemson offense was special Saturday night. They took care of the ball, which led to Clemson winning the turnover battle and added a new level of domination to the game. Once again, Kelly Bryant was his steady self. He proved his doubters wrong by throwing short, intermediate, and long passes with touch all night long. He passed for 316-yards and threw a long touchdown to Ray-Ray McCloud while also rushing for 2 touchdowns. Bryant has been steady all season. He does a good job taking care of the ball (1 INT through 3 games) and has generally made great reads. He's missed some throws, but I'll take that over turning the ball over.
Ray-Ray McCloud was great in this game as well. His 7 catches led the team. The majority of them were easy but important catches that led to the Tigers picking up important first downs. He ran a great route on his 79-yard touchdown catch, getting a ton of separation from the defender after running a little hitch-and-go that turned his defender around. His punt returns have also looked a lot better. He's been so close to breaking a long return; look for him to break one versus Boston College next weekend. McCloud's emergence over these last two games is very promising for Clemson. He provides Clemson another major weapon on offense and will help to take pressure off of Deon Cain and Hunter Renfrow in the passing game.
Speaking of Hunter Renfrow, how impressive is he? Every time the Tiger offense needs to make a play, Renfrow is always reliable. During pregame warmups, Louisville fans taunted him with the "overrated" chant. Hunter then proceeded to catch a 40-yard pass on the first Clemson drive of the game. He finished the game with 71 yards on just 4 catches, good for just under 18 yards per catch. Maybe Louisville fans should have asked Alabama's secondary if Hunter Renfrow is overrated. That's all I have to say about that.
Defense/ Special Teams: Dorian O'Daniel and Will Spiers
Let's be real, the entire defense deserves major credit for their performance. Despite what the box score shows, Lamar Jackson was shut down for the most part. In the 3 quarters he played against the Clemson starters, he was held to 118 yards passing and his completion percentage was below 50. He did have 1 passing TD and 62 yards rushing, but was held without a rushing touchdown. Overall, it was a great performance for a defense that could be considered the best in all of college football.
The defensive player that stood out to me the most was Dorian O'Daniel. Obviously, he stood out the most due to his impressive interception. He completely baited Lamar Jackson into throwing the pass by showing he was covering the flats pre-snap, but quickly dropped back into coverage and stepped in front of the pass and intercepted it. To add insult to injury, he returned it for a touchdown, and that's the play that sealed Louisville's fate. O'Daniel has been one of the most talked about players by Dabo and Brent Venables, and it's easy to see why. He can do it all; he can stop the run, cover slot receivers, sack quarterbacks, etc. He's one of the most versatile players on the Clemson defense and perhaps in the entire country,
Special teams often get overlooked until they mess up (*see Clemson 2015...), but one guy in particular deserves a lot of credit for his performance on Saturday. Punter Will Spiers has been as solid as anyone this season and has really been a difference maker for the Tigers. On Saturday, he constantly flipped the field with his leg. He averaged 52 yards a punt, which included a long of 64 yards. I truly believe Spiers has played a huge role in Clemson's defensive performance. Pinning opponents deep in their own territory makes it even harder for opposing offenses to score, especially when you consider how hard it is for them to score on Clemson's defense already. Good on Will Spiers for making the most of the opportunity as a scholarship player and punter.
Overall Player of the Game: Tavien Feaster
Tavien Feaster showed why Clemson fans and coaches are so high on him. He constantly picked up yards in chunks and displayed his impressive speed once he got into the second level. Feaster didn't lead the Tigers in yards or YPC, but this performance wasn't about stats for me. To me, it's quite evident he's ready to be the lead back. This is no knock on C.J. Fuller or Adam Choice. They've played well this season and should continue to play. However, this offense just flows better when Feaster is on the field and is running the ball well. Once he got into a rhythm, he was unstoppable. He averaged 9 yards per carry and nearly broke for a long touchdown run before he was tripped up. He didn't find the end zone, which was disappointing for him but in the long run didn't matter. He did totally miss a block in pass protection that allowed Louisville to sack Kelly Bryant. It's vital for Feaster to get better at this in order to gain the full trust of the coaches and Kelly Bryant. If he does, look for him to be on the field more and possibly in a starting role.
As always, let us know who stood out to you in the comments below!
Who Was Clemson’s Player of the Game Against Louisville
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Ray Ray McCloud