Matt Connolly

Report card: All three units contributed to Clemson’s victory

Ray-Ray McCloud and the Clemson receivers had a great game against Louisville.
Ray-Ray McCloud and the Clemson receivers had a great game against Louisville. USA TODAY Sports

Grading out how the Clemson Tigers performed in the 47-21 win against the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday.


Any time you can outplay the Heisman trophy winner, it’s a pretty good night. Kelly Bryant was 22-for-32 passing for 316 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 26 yards and two scores. Bryant’s running ability was never a question, but he also has thrown the ball well through the first three games of the year, particularly against Louisville. The junior connected on deep passes to Hunter Renfrow and Ray-Ray McCloud and had a long touchdown pass to Deon Cain called back.

Grade: A-

Running back

Tavien Feaster had the best game of his college career, rushing for 92 yards on 10 carries and showing the consistency the Tigers coaching staff has been waiting to see. Freshman Travis Etienne also showed what he is capable of with an 81-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Feaster missed a blitz pickup in the second half, leading to a sack, but otherwise it was a strong performance.

Grade: B+

Wide receiver

Clemson’s receivers did a great job of getting open and catching the ball. McCloud had a career high in receiving yards with 115, all in the first half. Renfrow set the tone early with a 40-yard catch on the opening drive. In total, seven wide receivers caught a pass, including Dabo Swinney’s son, Will.

Grade: A

Tight end

Milan Richard made one catch for 11 yards and was called for a facemask penalty that took a touchdown off the board. The group did a nice job blocking but didn’t contribute much in the passing game.

Grade: C-

Offensive line

The offensive line helped the Tigers rack up more than 600 total yards and nearly 300 rushing yards. Overall, the unit played well, but co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott would like to see the unit do a better job of protecting Bryant.

Grade: B

Defensive line

Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins were disruptive in the middle with each recording a sack. Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant did not put up big numbers, but the defensive line helped keep Jackson in the pocket and let the linebackers make plays.

Grade B+


The linebackers did a great job in pass coverage and were also a big reason why Louisville struggled in the running game. Dorian O’Daniel recorded a pick-6, the first touchdown of his career, and also had six tackles, including a tackle for loss.

Grade: A

Defensive backs

There were a couple of busts in the secondary late, but for the most part, the unit played great. The defensive backs did a nice job in coverage and did a nice job of stopping Jackson in the running game.

Grade: B+

Special Teams

Greg Huegel missed his first field goal attempt and Etienne bobbled the ball a couple of times on kickoffs, but there were some bright spots. Will Spiers averaged more than 50 yards per punt and pinned Louisville inside the 10 twice. The coverage units also did a nice job.

Grade: B


Clemson pounded a top 15 team on the road and controlled the game from the opening quarter on. All three units contributed to an impressive victory.

Grade: A