Clemson got off to a bit of a slow start before pulling away for a 45-10 win Saturday afternoon at Louisville. The victory marked Clemson’s 22nd consecutive win.
The Tigers are now 7-0 (5-0 ACC) entering this weekend’s matchup against Boston College. Here are five things we learned from the win over the Cardinals:
1. The 2019 Clemson defense might be better than last year’s
Clemson lost all four starters from what was one of the best defensive lines in college football history, and the Tigers had to replace seven starters total off of last year’s squad. But seven games into the season it appears as though this group could end up being better than the 2018 Clemson defense that featured defensive linemen Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant. Louisville entered Saturday’s game averaging 37 points and 489 yards of offense per game. Clemson held the Cardinals to 10 points and 263 yards of offense. The Tigers have held every opponent this season to under 300 yards. This is the first time Clemson has held seven consecutive opponents to under 300 yards of offense since 1956.
2. B.T. Potter got Dabo’s message
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney wanted to see a more focused B.T. Potter against Louisville after the sophomore kicker lost his starting spot the previous week against Florida State. Potter missed a chip shot field goal against the Seminoles and was replaced by Steven Sawicki for the rest of the game. Sawicki was also named the starter on short field goals entering Saturday’s game at Louisville, but Swinney said Potter would remain the long distance field goal kicker. Sure enough, when Clemson needed a 51-yard field goal to come away with points on its first drive, Swinney called upon Potter. The Rock Hill native boomed the ball through the uprights, tying a career high. Sawicki missed from 44 yards out on his only field goal attempt early in the third quarter, and Potter replaced him and kicked the extra points the rest of the way.
“How about ole Potter? He had a tough week. Everybody needs a little sugar every now and then,” Swinney said. “I’m extremely proud of him. And it’s just his mindset. That’s why sometimes we all need our butt kicked every now and then to just kind of refocus a little bit.”
3. Trevor Lawrence is still taking too many chances
Clemson’s star quarterback was picked off twice in the first quarter, with both interceptions taking place in the end zone. Lawrence said after the game that there were several times he should have checked the ball down, including on the picks. In the second quarter we saw why Lawrence is willing to takes some chances. Louisville defenders were in good position on both of Lawrence’s second quarter touchdowns — one to Joseph Ngata and one to Justyn Ross. But Clemson’s receivers went up and caught the ball in traffic for scores in both instances.
“The receivers we have, they make plays like that. We’ve seen them do it all the time,” Lawrence said.
4. Travis Etienne is playing up to his capabilities
Clemson’s star running back had a poor game at North Carolina, struggling in pass protection and finishing with only 67 yards on 14 attempts. Etienne has looked like one of the best running backs in the country the past two weeks, topping the 100-yard mark in wins against Florida State and Louisville. Etienne had 14 carries for 192 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals. He also caught four passes for 35 yards. Swinney said during his Sunday night teleconference that Etienne had 118 yards after contact in the win.
5. Clemson’s defensive line is getting better and better
The Tigers were without star defensive end Xavier Thomas and still held Louisville to 177 yards of offense through three quarters until the Cardinals found a little bit of success late against Clemson’s backups. Defensive ends Justin Foster, Logan Rudolph, K.J. Henry and Justin Mascoll played well with Thomas out. The Tigers finished with 11 tackles for loss and six sacks. Clemson’s defensive tackles also played well, led by Nyles Pinckney and Tyler Davis.