Tigers Start Sluggish; Finish Strong
LOUISVILLE — It took a half before the No. 3 Clemson Tigers woke up for their noon kickoff against the Louisville Cardinals, but once they did, the thrashing was on.
The Tigers defeated the Cardinals by a final score of 45-10 Saturday at Cardinal Stadium, improving to 7-0 overall, 6-0 ACC. Louisville fell to 4-3 overall, 2-2 ACC.
A sloppy and slow start to the game saw the Tigers and the Cardinals exchange turnovers on all five of their first six possessions. The one drive that did not end in a turnover was Clemson’s opening possession, in which B.T. Potter connected on a 51-yard field goal.
The Tigers finally got rolling in the second quarter when quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who threw two interceptions in the first quarter, orchestrated an 81-yard drive that included a 61-yard pass to Amari Rodgers and culminated in a six-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Ngata that gave the Tigers a 10-0 lead.
The Cardinals broke into the scoring drive on the ensuing drive, going 52 yards to the Tigers’ 10-yard line. However, Louisville was forced to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Blanton Creque that cut the Tiger lead to 10-3.
After both teams exchanged punts, the Tigers took over with 1:05 to play in the half, which turned out to be all the time they needed to add to their lead.
Lawrence found Rodgers for a 14-yard gain, running back Travis Etienne for a 16-yard gain and Justyn Ross for a 22-yard gain that moved the ball to the Cardinal 25.
The drive culminated on the next play, as, rolling left, Lawrence threw a jump ball into the back of the end zone that was caught by Ross for a 25-yard touchdown.
After both teams combined for three punts, which included Clemson's Andrew Booth being ejected from the game after throwing a punch at the end of one of the punts, the Tigers found the end zone again.
Etienne capped a two-play, 58-yard drive with a 49-yard touchdown run that extended the lead to 24-3.
The Tigers continued to build on their lead after the third three-and-out of the second half for the Cardinals. Lawrence found Cornell Powell from 10 yards out and extended the lead to 31-3 and capped off a seven play, 63-yard drive.
After the Tigers' second interception of the day, this one by A.J. Terrell, Clemson continued its second half onslaught. It needed only five plays to move the ball to the Cardinal eight-yard line before Darien Rencher finished the drive with his first career touchdown run.
The Cardinals finally found the end zone with 5:10 left in the fourth quarter, when Javian Hawkins capped his eight-rush drive with a three-yard touchdown run to make it 38-10.
Under the direction of backup quarterback Chase Brice, the Tigers ended the day's scoring, as third-string running back Chez Mellusi found the end zone for a 16-yard score.
- Ross has now recorded a touchdown reception in back-to-back games for the first time since games against Notre Dame and Alabama in last year’s College Football Playoff.
- Wide receiver Amari Rodgers recorded a 61-yard reception in the second quarter, his second-longest reception of the season behind an 87-yard touchdown reception against Syracuse. It was Rodgers’s third career reception of 60 yards or more.
- Wallace’s interception represented the first time Clemson recorded a takeaway on an opponent’s opening drive since last year’s College Football Playoff national championship game, when cornerback A.J. Terrell picked off Tua Tagovailoa on Alabama’s opening drive.
- Defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney recorded the team’s second takeaway of the game, grabbing a fumble forced by defensive end Justin Foster in midair. It was the second fumble recovery of his career and his first since recovering one against Georgia Southern in the third game of the 2018 season.
Up Next: The Tigers return home next week for a 7:30 p.m. (ACCN) kickoff against the Boston College Eagles.