Clemson's Dabo Swinney reacts after big win over Louisville
CLEMSON In a game that featured 1,075 yards of offense, three feet ended up being the difference.
Clemson defensive back Marcus Edmond knocked Louisville receiver James Quick out of bounds at the Tigers 3-yard line after an 11-yard gain on fourth-and-12 with less than a minute remaining, and Clemson held on to knock off previously unbeaten Louisville 42-36 Saturday night at Death Valley.
Deshaun Watson connected with Jordan Leggett for a 31-yard touchdown pass with 3:14 remaining on Clemson’s previous drive to give the Tigers the lead after Louisville rallied from an 18-point halftime deficit.
The win, coupled with Florida State’s loss Saturday afternoon, puts Clemson in the driver’s seat in the ACC Atlantic Division.
“We want to be 12-0 and you can’t win 12 until you win five. It was a great win. Louisville played their hearts out,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “At the end of the day, you either have the heart or you don’t. You have the will to win or you don’t. ... This is 19 in a row at home and we’re moving on to the next one.”
The Tigers controlled the first half thanks to a stellar performance by Watson and a dominant effort on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Clemson led 28-10 at halftime as the Tigers offense exploded for four touchdowns in the second quarter after both teams struggled offensively for the first 15 minutes.
Watson passed for 189 yards and three touchdowns in the second quarter, and Wayne Gallman added a 24-yard touchdown run, while the Tigers defense bottled up Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The sophomore, who entered the game averaging more than 465 yards of offense and with 25 total touchdowns, was held to 138 yards and no touchdowns in the first half before he got it going the last two quarters.
“He’s a freak. He’s the best player that I’ve ever played against in my entire life and probably that I ever will play against,” Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware said. “He made it very difficult on us tonight.”
Jackson led Louisville on six consecutive scoring drives from late in the second quarter until early in the fourth, before the Tigers held Louisville scoreless on the last two possessions of the game.
Jackson finished with 457 total yards and three total touchdowns with an interception. He ran the ball 31 times for 162 yards, and completed 27 of 44 passes for 295 yards.
“We had a lot of opportunities to make some plays on their side of the line of scrimmage and he wiggled out of them,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “He’s the real deal.”
Watson, Clemson’s Heisman Trophy candidate, passed for 306 yards with five touchdowns and three picks. He added 14 carries for 91 yards.
“I can’t even describe it, one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Watson said of the win. “Just the ups and downs. I love our Clemson fans for sticking with us and believing. I love my teammates and coaches for sticking together and believing in each other.”
The Clemson defense was led by Boulware, who finished with 18 tackles, including three tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
Van Smith added 16 tackles, while Albert Huggins and Clelin Ferrell each had two sacks. Safety Jadar Johnson added seven tackles and an interception.
Louisville had outscored Clemson 26-0 in the second half and led 36-28 when Artavis Scott returned a kickoff 77 yards to the Louisville 23 to set up Mike Williams 20-yard touchdown catch from Deshaun Watson two plays later. The Tigers’ two-point conversion attempt failed but Clemson regained momentum.
Star of the game: Ben Boulware: Clemson’s senior linebacker played all 99 defensive snaps, finished with a game-high 18 tackles, had three tackles for loss and recovered a fumble.
Play of the game: Marcus Edmond was able to shove Louisville receiver James Quick out of bounds one yard short of the first down line in the final seconds to preserve the win.
Crowd made a difference early: Many of Louisville’s first-half mistakes were due to the environment. The Cardinals were called for three false starts in the opening five minutes as Death Valley was deafening.
Heisman contenders shine: Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson put on a show, combining for 854 yards of offense and eight touchdowns.
Who: Clemson at Boston College
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Chestnut Hill, Mass.
LOU—Je.Smith 1 run (Creque kick), 14:18
CLE—Cain 33 pass from D.Watson (Huegel kick), 7:48
CLE—Gallman 24 run (Huegel kick), 6:09
CLE—Cain 37 pass from D.Watson (Huegel kick), 3:47
LOU—FG Creque 26, :37
CLE—A.Scott 5 pass from D.Watson (Huegel kick), :05
LOU—Quick 8 pass from L.Jackson (kick failed), 11:20
LOU—FG Creque 21, 5:21
LOU—L.Jackson 1 run (Creque kick), :45
LOU—FG Creque 28, 10:23
LOU—L.Jackson 11 run (Creque kick), 7:52
CLE—Mi.Williams 20 pass from D.Watson (pass failed), 7:05
CLE—Leggett 31 pass from D.Watson (Leggett pass from D.Watson), 3:14
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Louisville, L.Jackson 31-162, Radcliff 13-69, Je.Smith 8-51, L.Scott 2-(minus 3), (Team) 1-(minus 6). Clemson, Gallman 16-110, D.Watson 14-91, (Team) 1-0.
PASSING—Louisville, L.Jackson 27-44-1-295. Clemson, D.Watson 20-31-3-306.
RECEIVING—Louisville, Hikutini 7-84, Quick 7-83, Je.Smith 4-54, J.Staples 4-35, L.Scott 2-16, Bonnafon 1-9, Samuel 1-7, Ja.Smith 1-7. Clemson, Mi.Williams 5-70, Cain 4-98, Leggett 3-70, A.Scott 3-40, McCloud 3-16, Thompson 2-12.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.