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Key Take-Aways From Clemson’s 45-10 Win Over Louisville

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Clemson v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

That was ugly for a dominant performance, wasn’t it? Clemson’s defense is insane! How have they avoided drop-off after losing so much talent? The offense has looked a little disjointed though, at least as much as you can while scoring 45 points. Let’s start there.

Firstly, John Simpson and Travis Etienne both exited with injury, but Coach Swinney said they’re fine. That’s a relief. Etienne was awesome, posting 192 rushing yards. He was unstoppable. The offense fed him on some non-RPO looked and it worked nicely. Commentator Dan Orlovsky mentioned the need to not become overly reliant on the RPO. Sometimes you just have to decide to run it and force the issue. That’s something OC Tony Elliott had said prior to the game. I agree wholeheartedly. I love the RPO. It’s a great tool, but it’s just that... a tool. It’s not (or shouldn’t be) the whole offense. Orlovsky also defended Clemson against detractors who lack appreciation for how tough it is to win 22 straight games. He is fantastic. I hope we get him on our games moving forward!

Everything wasn’t fantastic though. Trevor Lawrence started off pretty shaky. He finished 20-29 with 3 passing TDs, which is very good, but those early INTs are concerning (particularly the second one). I haven’t really been concerned with his interceptions to date, we’re now into the second half of the season. He was so good against FSU. I thought the hiccups were behind us. Alas, who I am to worry when Dabo is steering the ship? Swinney is a cool customer and will have everyone playing their best when it counts most.

Joe Ngata came up with a TD catch reminiscent of Tee Higgin’s National Championship grab. He’s got a bright future.

I was happy to to see Darien Rencher get his first TD. Chez Mellusi also had a long TD run. The sea really parted for him. The middle of the field was completely open. It looked like we were playing 2018 Louisville on that play.

On special teams, it was good to see BT Potter redeem himself. He nailed the 51-yarder and made all his extra points (he kicked four, Sawicki kicked two). It was nice to see Dabo give him a hearty congratulations afterwards. He came down hard on him last week, and it’s cool to see that he is in his corner and using tough love to propel him to be the best player he can be, which as Swinney said is an NFL kicker.

Clemson’s defense was totally dominant. Brent Venables is the obvious choice for the Broyles award. The only other I’d consider is Joe Brady, who is the passing game coordinator at LSU. I’m amazed at how Venables does this every year. I was sure the offense would carry the team through the first half of the year. On the contrary, the defense has suffocated teams. Louisville’s defense held firm for a while in this one, but eventually broke while Clemson’s defense held them to three points until garbage time.

Derion Kendrick has been amazing all season, but he struggled in this one. It’s the first game I’ve noticed him being anything less than stellar. The most glaring play was the muffed punt nearly became a Cardinals touchdown. I’m not sure why it was a touchback and not a safety. (Can someone explain in the comments?) I thought Kendrick got pulled for performance issues, but Venables said it was a minor turf toe injury. Those injuries can linger. Let’s hope it’s minor!

Unfortunately, Booth left after literally attacking someone. In an otherwise great game, this honestly tainted the victory for me:

“Disappointed in Booth. Really disappointed. That is not who we are and that is not who he is. One thing I can say about Andrew Booth is he one of the best young people, from an unbelievable family, and if I would have had to guess 1-100 who would have been the one to do something like that he would have been at the bottom of the list.” - Dabo Swinney (via TigerNet)

The only solace is that we have Coach Swinney at the helm. He won’t try to justify it or minimize it. The discipline has already started for Booth, who I hope and pray can grow from this mistake. Him becoming a better man from it is about the only good that can come from it. That IS who we are as a program and I fully expect to see him succeed in the future.

Finally, we’ll end on with a few positives. CB Mario Goodrich stepped up with Kendrick and Booth out. It’s good to have some depth at CB. Justin Foster stepped up and played very well with Xavier Thomas out in concussion protocol. He and Nyles Pinckey have been biding their time and have played well when given opportunities.

Clemson is 7-0. We are riding a 22-game win streak. The only challenge left on the schedule is the road trip to South Carolina. They’re playing good football now with a win over UGA and a close loss to Florida coming in their last two games. The ACC is as down as I’ve ever seen it. Aside from Clemson and Virginia, who would you take over a Big 12 team... Any of them?

As for Louisville, that’s a program on the upswing. If FSU, who lost to Wake Forest, doesn’t get back to form in the next year or two, I think we could see Louisville as the #2 team in the conference for a while. It should be fun! Battles with Louisville and Notre Dame will headline the schedule for the next 2-3 years.