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Clemson vs. Louisville: The Tigers Stomp the Cardinals

Travis Etienne returns to his dominating ways as the Tigers dominate the Cardinals.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Louisville
Travis Etienne ran all over the Cardinals defense today.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

After stomping once proud and capable Florida State in Death Valley last week, Clemson took to the road to take on Louisville. The Cardinals came in with a 4-2 record after a shootout victory over Wake Forest. Could they replicate the energy of UNC fans and give Clemson a run for their money?

Clemson kicked off to start the game and B.T. Potter put it out of the back of the end zone. Starting at the 25, Nyles Pinckney stuff the Cardinal runner for a loss of 2 on 1st down but two completions moved the chains to the Cardinal 43. They continued to throw outs and moved into Tiger territory. Eventually the Tigers bit and K’Von Wallace picked off a long throw into the end zone. The Tigers took over at their 20. Travis Etienne promptly picked up 48 yards up the middle. From the Louisville 32, Lyn-J Dixon picked up 7 yards on 1st down. Trevor Lawrence threw against his body to the right and sailed it high, almost intercepted. He was sacked on the next play and Potter came in to try the 51-yard FG and nailed it. Clemson led 3-0 with 9:27 left in the quarter.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Louisville
Travis Etienne breaks through the Louisville defense for a long gain.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville started at the 25 and gained 7 on a wide run to the left. They gained a few more yards but the drive stalled at the Cardinal 44. On the punt, Derion Kendrick muffed it on an ill-advised attempt to catch it inside the 10, but Clemson avoided disaster recovered it in the end zone. Etienne broke several tackles and gained 9 yards on 1st down. Justyn Ross picked up the 1st down on an out route out to the 36. After an incompletion, Lawrence scrambled for 19 yards on second down. Etienne picked up 3 on a wide screen and some beautiful blocking turned him loose for another 21 yards down to the Cardinal 21. Dixon picked up a couple on 1st down but the Tigers lost yardage on a wide screen to Ross. On 3rd and 9, Lawrence obviously didn’t see the safety and threw it right to him at the goal line. Louisville took over at their 12.

The Cardinals picked up good yardage on 1st down but Isaiah Simmons got a TFL to set up 3rd & 9. A delay of game penalty made it 3rd & 14. A.J. Terrell got beat on a long pass out to the Louisville 46. A couple of plays later Pinckney caught a fumble in midair caused by a Justin Foster hit on the Louisville QB, and returned it to the Cardinal 40. Etienne picked up a yard on 1st down and then Lawrence completed another pass to a Louisville player in the end zone as a Tiger receiver tripped over his defender and the ball sailed over him. Louisville started at the 20.

The Cardinals weren’t doing much and appeared to fumble on a 3rd down screen pass as Simmons got the strip. But review said it was an incomplete pass. Louisville unleashed a 59-yard punt and the Tigers got the ball at the 19. Etienne took it up the middle for 10 yards. He picked up 3 on the next play Amari Rodgers took a short pass for 60 yards down to the Cardinal 7. Lawrence got stopped for no gain on 1st down and Etienne got a yard on 2nd down. On 3rd down, Lawrence moved away from pressure and hit Joseph Ngata in the back of the end zone for the score. The Steve Sawicki PAT made it 10-3 Clemson with a little under 11 minutes left in the half.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Louisville
Joseph Ngata celebrates with Tee Higgins after scoring.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville ran the kickoff out to the 38. The Tiger defense held the Cardinals on 1st and 2nd to set up 3rd & 7. They completed a short pass to pick up the 1st down. If not for a drop, Louisville would have been in the end zone on a pass over the middle. On 2nd down, the Cardinals picked up 15 down to the Tiger 33. They got another 11 on a QB keep on an option. Derion Kendrick was called for a hold and Louisville had a 1st down just outside the 10. The Tiger defense stiffened and set up 3rd & 10. The Cardinals got a couple of yards and set up the FG which was good. Clemson led 10-3 with about 5 minutes left in the half.

Clemson started at the 25 after the touchback. Dixon lost 4 yards on 1st down and a hold pushed the Tigers back to 2nd & 21. Lawrence had to call a timeout as the play clock was winding down. The offense was definitely sputtering at this point. Etienne picked up 8 on a shovel pass and another 8 on a screen pass, so the Tigers had to punt. Louisville took over at their 28. On 1st down they picked up 19 yards on a beautifully thrown flag route to their 47. A holding penalty gave the Cardinals 1st &20. An incomplete pass and a false start made it 2nd & 25. A scramble made it 3rd & 16. Simmons spied the QB and nailed him for a loss of 4. The punt went out of bounds at the Tiger 23.

Lawrence hit Rodgers for 19 and then Etienne out to the Cardinal 47. He then hit Ross down to the 25. The offense was definitely NOT sputtering at this point. Lawrence scrambled away and bought enough to hit Ross in the back of the end zone. The Tigers took a 17-3 lead into halftime.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Louisville
Amari Rodgers tells a Louisville defender to talk to the hand.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Ngata had a nice return of the 2nd half kickoff out to the Tiger 40. A poor throw on 1st down and a screen to Rodgers set up 3rd & 7. Lawrence hit Ross on a short crossing route but it only picked up 2. Clemson punted it down to the Cardinal 23. A couple of runs moved the ball out to the 37. On 3rd & 5, the Cards only picked up 4. Louisville lined up to go for it and the Tiger defense completely stuffed it.

Clemson started at the Louisville 45 and Etienne rumbled for 8. On 2nd down he repeated and took it to the 29. Lawrence ran wide left for a yard. Tee Higgins almost had a nice sideline catch but the call was that one foot was down. Replay confirmed it and Louisville’s defense held on 3rd down. Sawicky came in to try the 26 yard FG. He pulled it left and the Tigers squandered good starting field position again. The Cards started at the 27 but only gained a yard in their possession. The punt was field by Rodgers at the Tiger 26 but Andrew Booth lost his mind and was ejected for punching a Louisville player. The Tigers started at their 7.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Louisville
Chad Smith gets after Louisville QB Evan Conley.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Dixon moved it out to the 11 but then lost 5 on 2nd down. Lawrence then took a designed draw out to the 26. for the 1st down. Etienne picked up 8 and then 5 more to get another 1st down. Lawrence picked up a couple out to the Tiger 41. Etienne picked up 4 to make it 3rd & 4. Lawrence tried to hit J.C. Chalk over the middle but they couldn’t connect. Will Spiers punted it down to the Cardinal 21. The Tigers got a sack on 1st down. On 2nd & 15, they got another sack down to the 5. The Cards picked up some yardage out to the 17 to give the punter some space and Rodgers returned it 18 yards to the Tiger 42. Lawrence hit Diondre Overton with a quick pass for 9 yards. Etienne did his thing and took off for 49 yards to the end zone. Clemson led 24-3 with 1:35 left in the 3rd quarter.

Louisville ran a jet sweep out to the 38 but got stuffed on the next play for a loss of 3. On the next play Mario Goodrich made a great play on the ball and knocked down the pass. On 3rd & 13, the Tigers brought the heat and sacked the Cardinal QB for a loss of 9 down to the 26. as the 3rd quarter ended. The Cards punted and it went out of bounds at the Tiger 37. Dixon picked up 3 on 1st down and Davis Allen caught a quick pass out to midfield for the 1st down. Overton caught a 2nd down pass and took it to the Louisville 32. Etienne got 18 yards but appeared to favor his left hamstring. Hopefully it was just a cramp. After Lawrence scrambled for a few yards, Cornell Powell took a throw from him for the TD. The score was 31-3 with just under 13 minutes left in the game.

Clemson v Louisville
Isaiah Simmons tackles Cardinal QB Evan Conley.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Louisville had a poor possession that ended with an A.J. Terrell interception, and he returned it to the Louisville 25. Lawrence threw a strike to Higgins that was ruled incomplete and review confirmed it, but I disagreed strongly with that call. On the next play he took a screen for 3 yards. Then Lawrence hit T.J. Chase for the 1st down at the 9 yard line. Lawrence kept it on an option and moved the ball to the 8 and then Darrien Rencher took it in to make it 38-3 with 10:14 remaining.

The Cards started at the 25 and picked up 19 out to the 44. Another good run took it into Tiger territory at the 44. The Cardinal drive appeared to stall but then they got a good scramble and kept it alive. They moved down to the Tiger 5 but a false start set up 2nd & goal from the 10. A tough run moved it to the 4 and on 3rd down the Cards scored. It was 38-10 Tigers with about 5 minutes left.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Louisville
The Tigers harassed the Louisville QBs all day.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Ngata returned the ensuing kickoff out to the Tiger 25. Chase Brice came in at QB and Chez Mellusi picked up 9 on 1st down and another 9 on 2nd. Brice hit Overton a few plays later down to the Louisville 37. A couple of plays for losses led to 3rd down and Brice tried to hit Frank Ladson down the right sideline. The Cards committed pass interference and the Tigers moved to the 25. Michel Dukes picked up 9 and after Brice ran for no gain, Mellusi took it 16 yards for the TD. Clemson led 45-10 with a minute left. The Cards ran a few plays and the clock expired.

The Tigers had some struggles today, and I’m sure the naysayers will claim that Clemson shouldn’t be in the top 10 (sarcasm alert), but they soundly beat a talented Louisville team today. This talk that I’m hearing from people that Clemson shouldn’t be in the top 5 is ridiculous. I think Dabo has things right on schedule for a CFP run. What do you think? Let us know in the comments section. Thanks for stopping by and check back with us for reviews and previews over the next few days.