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Clemson overcomes slow starts, tops the Cardinals in Louisville

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Hank Greene
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Admittedly, this was a bit of a weird one. Fresh off a solid bounceback performance against Florida State, Clemson hit the road to take on a promising Louisville team looking to make a statement against the conference's top squad.

And while all's well that ends well, as they say, this game certainly didn't start off as the dominant performance the final score would indicate...

Offense stalls early

It’s hard to know precisely what was going on with the Clemson offense through the first quarter and a half, but it sure was a head-scratcher.

Against one of the conference’s - and perhaps the country’s - worst defenses, Clemson just seemed to struggle to get anything going. After the Tigers' defense picked off Malik Cunningham on the first drive, Trevor Lawrence and the offense could only muster a field goal - then when the defense forced two more turnovers, Lawrence threw back-to-back interceptions, including an absolutely inexplicable throw that seemed to go right to a Louisville defender in the endzone.

Clemson would end the first quarter up just 3-0 - a perplexing place to have been, considering it felt like so many of their issues were self-inflicted.

Eventually Lawrence would get back on track, and would end up finishing with 233 yards and three touchdowns - but he made decisions throughout the day that you had to wonder a bit about, and had it not been for his talented group of receivers, things might have been more frustrating for Lawrence and the offense.

But when they got into gear… boy were they off

Of course, those 551 total yards for the offense had to come from somewhere - and on Saturday it was once again Travis Etienne who provided the spark for the Tigers, going for 192 yards on 14 carries, including a game-breaking 49 yard touchdown run to put Clemson up 24-3 near the end of the third quarter. He left with an injury, but it doesn’t appear serious, and we should see him back for Boston College this weekend.

Behind Etienne, everything else fell into place in the second half - as the Tigers scored on their final four possessions of the day to put the Cardinals away for good. The wide receivers made plays, the offensive line allowed only one sack on the day - and, crucially, after those first two interceptions Clemson’s offense didn’t turn the ball over.

It was the kind of performance you wish you would have seen from the start, but playing a conference opponent on the road, sometimes that's just the way the day goes.

Defense comes out strong and never lets up

For how slow the offense came out, this game never felt in doubt for Clemson fans - due mainly to just how good this defense was all day.

Much had been made of the Louisville offense, which had amassed 1,184 yards and 103 total points over their previous two games coming into this one - and who were looking to make a statement against a Clemson defense that ranked 7th in the defensive SP+ coming into the game.

Well, as they say, "great defense beats okay offense" - and Clemson absolutely rolled in this one. They help the Cardinals to just 263 total yards, including just 107 yards through the air (to go with two interceptions), and 75 of which came in garbage time when the game was already way out of reach.

They recorded six sacks, 11 tackles for a loss (3.5 of which came from DE Justin Foster), and completely dominated every aspect of their match-up with Louisville all day long - most crucially when their offense seemed to be struggling to put points on the board.


It may have started slow, but Clemson pulled away convincingly and now moves to 7-0 on the year. Outside of their scare against UNC, they haven't gotten much competition in the ACC this season - but they’ll need to remain focused as match-ups with Boston College and Wake Forest loom in the distance. After all, as Wisconsin showed this past weekend, one week of lapsed focus can undermine an entire CFP campaign…

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About Author

Hank Greene
Hank Greene

Hank Greene is the Content Strategist for Rent Like A Champion, where he writes about travel, college football, and RLAC's offerings across the country. He believes every college football stadium should sell footlong hot dogs, and that every tailgate should include pulled pork sandwiches.

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