Clemson vs Louisville: Tigers Takes Down Cards on Military Appreciation Day
by: Grayson Mann
The Clemson Tigers would welcome the Louisville Cardinals to Death Valley for a military appreciation day matchup! Could Clemson overcome the struggles that haunted them at Notre Dame, or would they fall to a Louisville team playing their best football as of late? Here is how the game turned out.
The first quarter began with a near scare as DJ’s pass was nearly intercepted three plays into the drive. A commercial break gave Tiger fans time to see the replay, and the call was overturned. Offensive Coordinator Brandon Streeter came out with different looks and an emphasis on tempo. DJ ran the ball more than he did at Notre Dame in just one drive and made a big third down throw to Joseph Ngata, giving the Tigers a red zone opportunity. DJ would take it in himself for an eleven-yard score putting the Tigers up seven early in the first. The offense was not the only unit to make a statement early on, as the defense would force two straight three-and-out drives, highlighted by the pressure put on by the front seven. The Tigers would receive the ball once again and proceed to put points on the board as they drove the length of the field but could not find the end zone. B.T. Potter, who is up for many awards once this season is all said and done, drove in the field goal to put Clemson up by ten points. This team came out with a sense of urgency to start the game, understanding the moment before them. The national media has been eyeballing this team, waiting for an opportunity to get their talking points out. The question all week for this team is how they would respond with their backs against the wall following the Notre Dame loss. With the Tigers leading 10-0 at the end of the first, their response has been resounding.
The second quarter would start with the Cardinals making their presence as Tiyon Evans would run it to cut Clemson’s lead to three. Louisville’s offense got their points through the run game, rushing for fifty-one yards in the first quarter. Malik Cunningham had been held in check by the Tiger defense throughout the first quarter and a half. His ability to make electric plays with his legs and arm was hindered. An emphasis on Goodwin’s part was to make sure that the star quarterback would be kept in the pocket and put under constant pressure. The Clemson offense would make their way down the field again but would find themselves in a hole as they neared the red zone. DJ was stripped, and Louisville recovered to take over the football. The first half would conclude with a creative drive from the Tigers, utilizing the first part of that middle eight to stretch their lead back to ten. The slant route was the go-to on this drive, with DJ putting the ball on the money to methodically get his unit into the end zone. Antonio Williams would be the recipient of the touchdown grab, adding to an already stellar day on his end and filling a void left this week with Beaux Collins out.
Would Louisville rally for a comeback? Or could Clemson put their foot to the throttle and make a statement? Here is how the second half played out.
The second half began with an incredible drive by the Clemson offense. Streeter would dial up some good looks for the unit as they made their way down the field with relative ease. The scoring play would feature an unbelievable hurdle from Will Shipley, with a “WHOOP” from Chris Berman being heard somewhere in the distance. The Tigers would stretch their lead 24-7 and look to make a statement to the national media. Louisville had some magic of its own, driving down the field with a bomb from Louisville’s backup to get them in the red zone. The Tiger defense would hold on and keep the Cardinals from scoring six, forcing the field goal team out for an easy conversion. The Tigers would lead 24-10. Something to note is that while Clemson had control of this game throughout, it was still a sloppy effort, with turnovers hindering what could be a statement win. The third quarter would conclude with the Tigers up fourteen, hoping to stretch the lead further in an attempt to send a message to the country on how Clemson would respond following their loss last Saturday.
The fourth quarter would begin with the consensus that Louisville was hanging around and that it could prove disastrous if Clemson could not get it all together. The Tiger defense would respond to the challenge with Goodwin dialing up much pressure on the second stringer in relief of Cunninghman to ensure that regardless of who was under center, they would feel the heat. Overall, minus some chunk plays, the Clemson defense had kept the Cardinal offense in check, making big plays when it counted. Louisville would start to creep in, but Barrett Carter would make a big play halfway through the fourth with an interception. We would see Cade Klubnik come in for some action, only to be hindered by another fumble by the Tigers. The turnovers overshadow many great moments from this game where Clemson was back in the win column. Before things could officially wrap up, Phil Mafah would have the last laugh as he would race down the field for a score. With two minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Tigers led 31-10. Despite an odd late score, the Tigers would take care of business and hold on 31-16.
The Tigers are back in the win column but still have many things to work out. Defensively, this team overcame the offensive turnovers and kept the Cardinal offense at bay. Clemson now looks toward their final two games, with a struggling Miami team and rival South Carolina on deck.