Just two years ago Louisville came into Death Valley and nearly cost Clemson its eventual national championship. Lamar Jackson brought the Cardinals back from a halftime deficit and were threatening to score with seconds left when Tiger corner Marcus Edmund stopped James Quick short on 4th and 12 inside the Tiger 5 to seal the victory. This week Louisville returned to Death Valley with a team that nowhere near as threatening as their 2016 team. The Tigers were expected to deliver another FSU-esque beatdown on the Cardinals. Today would not be anything like the 2016 game.
Clemson received the opening kickoff and took a touchback. After Trevor Lawrence hit Tee Higgins for a few yards, Travis Etienne got loose for 35 yards and with a facemask on Loiusville, the Tigers were at the Cardinals’ 19 yard line. Higgins caught a pass for 9 yards and then Etienne ran it in from there. The Tigers were up 7-0. Louisville returned the kickoff to the 25. On 3rd down, Louisville try to block Austin Bryant with a running back. Yeah, a running back. Bryant got the sack. After the punt, the Tigers would take over at their 30.
The next drive consisted of one play. Tavien Feaster took it to the house. I said to my wife “This one’s gonna be ugly.”
B.T. Potter must have been ill because the kickoff only went to the 1 yard line. Louisville returned it to the 20. The Cardinals managed to string a few plays together and move into Tiger territory. X-Man Xavier Thomas is a physical freak, chasing down running backs on sweeps and inside runs during the drive. Louisville was having success throwing out passes to the sideline and moved into the red zone. With 1st and 10 from the 13, the Cardinals could only get to the 8 and settled for the FG. Clemson led 14-3.
Clemson started at the 25 and Louisville was called for pass interference on 1st down to move it out to the 40. Etienne took off for 25 yards on the next play. After a miscommunication between Lawrence and Etienne led to the ball being on the ground on 1st down (Lawrence recovered it), Adam Choice came in and had some good runs to move it into the red zone. Etienne gained 3 to move the ball down to the 11 as the 1st quarter ended. When play resumed, Lawrence hit Higgins on a slant for the score. The Tigers were up 21-3.
After another short Potter kickoff, Louisville started at their 17. The Cardinals got a first down and moved to the 30. J.D. Davis then got to the QB and forced a fumble but Louisville recovered. A couple of plays later, Louisville QB Jawon Pass sailed a throw and Tiger safety Isaiah Simmons took it in easily for the pick-six. Clemson led 28-3. After the kickoff, the Cardinals started at the 25. A holding penalty and some ineffective running plays led to 3rd and 17, but a Cardinals receiver was wide open and they converted. After that, the Tiger defense, with substitutes appearing already, feasted on the Cardinals and they had to punt. Amari Rodgers took the fair catch at the Tiger 10.
Feaster started the drive with a run out to the 16 but an illegal formation call on the next play pushed them back to the 11. Clemson was unable to get a 1st down and Will Spiers came in to punt. A.J. Terrell hit the Louisville returner and was called for targeting. After replay the call was confirmed. A hold by the Cardinals forced a re-kick and Louisville took over at their 45. Louisville got a first down moving down to the 33 but the Tiger defense stiffened and the Cardinals faced a 4th & 5. Kendall Joseph got to Pass for the sack and the Tigers took over. Lawrence threw a deep pass to Higgins but it was overthrown and Louisville intercepted it at the Cardinal 14. The Cardinals couldn’t do much and punted it back. Rodgers returned it to the Tiger 40.
Wide screens to Rodgers and a run by Lawrence moved the ball into Cardinal territory. Etienne took off for 32 yards down to the 11. On the next play he took it down to the 5 and another run made it 3rd & 2 from the 3. Lawrence then hit Rodgers on a rollout and he took it in for an easy score. The score was 34-3 with 30 seconds left in the half. Louisville ran a play but the clock expired.
Louisville ran the 2nd half kickoff out to the 25. The Clemson defense came to play and forced Louisville into 4th & 21. Rodgers took the fair catch on the punt at the Tiger 42. On 1st down, Lawrence hit Hunter Renfrow for 15 yards. Etienne then got loose for 41 yards down to the 2. After an incomplete pass to Renfrow, the Heavy Package came in. Big Dex took the handoff from the fullback position and scored. Clemson was up 42-3. Next up I want to see Wilkins take a pitch and hit Big Dex on a rollout in the flat.
Louisville took the touchback and on 1st down, with little pressure on the QB Tanner Muse intercepted it and took it down to the Cardinal 9. A couple of Feaster runs took in down to the 3. On 3rd down, Feaster got his second TD of the game. Clemson led 49-3. Kicker Greg Huegel had a knee brace on his kicking leg for this game but it was good to see him back after the injury last week. Louisville returned the kickoff out to the 20. They were close to getting a 1st down but were called for holding to make it 3rd & 11. Louisville picked up 6 and had to punt. The Cardinal cover man hit Rodgers with his helmet and was called for targeting. You all know my frustration with some of these targeting calls, but that one looked like the kind of thing that you do want to take out of the game: drilling a defenseless guy high with your helmet.
Chase Brice came in with the Tigers at the Cardinal 47. Adam Choice then had a spectacular 30-yard run with 2nd, 3rd and 4th effort. Feaster then had a 16-yard run to the 1. Feaster appeared to have another TD but the Tigers were called for a false start. Brice then faked a pitch and ran it down to the 1 to set up 2nd & goal. The Tigers tried a throwback to an eligible Mitch Hyatt, but he was tackled at the 6. Brice then hit Trevion Thompson for the TD. Clemson led 56-3 after the PAT by Alex Spence. Louisville started from their 25. On 2nd down Albert Huggins almost got to the QB and the rest of the Tiger defense cleaned it up to make it 3rd and 11 and the Cardinals couldn’t convert. Will Sweeney called for a fair catch but the Cardinal cover man hit him. On the next play a bad handoff fell to the ground and Louisville picked up and ran but fumbled and a hustling Cannon Smith recovered it. Justyn Ross took a pass and got a 1st down. Brice then uncorked a 60-yard pass to Ross for a TD. The score was 63-3 and this one had definitely gotten ugly.
Louisville came to life and took the short kickoff back 93 yards for the TD, but they missed the PAT, making it 63-9. Derion Kendrick took the kickoff out to the Tiger 34. At the start of the 4th quarter Lyn-J Dixon got loose and went 55 yards for Clemson’s 10th TD of the day. The score was 70-9. Clemson brought Potter back in to kick the kickoff and the touchback was delivered. Louisville completed a long pass down to the Tiger 11. A couple of plays later the backup QB ran it in to make the score 70-16. Kendrick brought the kickoff out to the 25.
Darien Rencher had a couple of good runs to get a 1st down. J.C. Chalk got another 1st down on a flat pass catch and run. Dixon took a pitch and ran, patiently waiting for blocks, down to the Cardinal 8. Brice then gave it to Will Sweeney on a jet sweep for the TD to make it 77-16. On their next drive, the Cardinals completed another long pass out to midfield. They got to 4th & 10 and a false start made it 4th & 15. A good scramble and a good catch and run moved the chains and it was 1st & goal from the 9. On 4th & goal, they couldn’t complete the pass and the Tigers took over at their 4 with 3:51 left.
Dixon took off for 19 yards and then Kendrick picked up 10. With Kendrick at QB and running, the Tigers moved down to the Cardinal 39. The Tigers kept running the ball and the clock ran out. Clemson had a 77-16 win under their belts.
The Tigers delivered another impressively dominant performance today. Etienne had 8 carries for 153 yards. Dixon had 4 carries for 116 yards. Feaster had 6 carries for 101. As a team Clemson had 37 carries for 492 yards. Next week they are on the road to take on Boston College. That game should be a little more competitive than today was. Check back with us over the next few days for the in-depth coverage you expect from the STS team. Let us know what you’re thinking in the comments section below.