Reporting from SC – The modus operandi of the 2019 Tigers is to grind out wins, and Clemson’s 45-10 win over Louisville was no exception.
The flashy-dominant FSU game gave hope that Clemson was finally at ‘all cylinders’, and it appeared as if the dominance would continue for the first few minutes of the first quarter. The opening drives went just as Vegas would have scripted them: a potent Louisville offense stopped only by a K’Von Wallace end zone interception, followed by a 48-yard Etienne rush that set up a 51-yard field goal for BT Potter, a chance of redemption he capitalized on.
Then Trevor Lawrence tried to be Superman – twice. Staring down his receivers and making ill-advised throws, he gave two Louisville defenders their first career interceptions in the first quarter. Not to be outdone, the Tiger defense earned their second turnover of the day between Lawrence’s consecutive interceptions when Nyles Pinckney strip-sacked Cunningham and recovered the fumble.
The talent that Trevor trusted too much in the first quarter enabled him to make some impressive second quarter throws, with the crown jewel being a risky, end of half, back of end zone touchdown pass that Justyn Ross high-pointed for the 17-3 lead.
As the Clemson offense continued to show flashes of brilliances and lapses of madness, the Tiger defense consistently buoyed the offense by only allowing 93 yards of offense and three points in the second and third quarters combined.
Amidst the offensive aerial struggles, Travis Etienne accounted for 192 of Clemson’s 298 rushing yards on just 14 attempts, as well as hauling in all four of his targets for 35 yards.
Isaiah Simmons continued to display his versatility and be the best player on the field. He currently leads the 2019 Tigers in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks heading into today, and he didn’t disappoint with eight total tackles, two sacks (Foster tied with two today), and two TFL (Foster had 3.5).
Lawrence stayed in the game until midway through the fourth quarter, delivering his last touchdown pass of the day to Cornell Powell early in the fourth quarter. The final two Clemson drives featured two backup running backs, as veteran walk-on Darien Rencher (38-3) rushed for his first career touchdown and freshman Chez Mellusi rushed for his second career touchdown (45-10).
The Tiger defense’s only poor drive of the day was a late fourth quarter touchdown drive allowed by the backups, with a Javian Hawkins run allowing the Cardinals to break double-digits on the scoreboard.
The one blemish that stood out was freshman Andrew Booth’s completely unnecessary personal foul for repeatedly punching a Louisville player in the third quarter on a punt return. He was sent off the field by Coach Swinney in record time, before the referees could even eject him (they did so promptly). The situation concerning punishment will be monitored and updated as necessary.
The difference between 2018 and 2019 Louisville? The Cardinals are well coached and don’t quit, and they should soon be a conference threat. The difference between 2018 and 2019 Clemson? Flashy wins versus slowly hammering teams into oblivion over sixty minutes. If 2019 Clemson can match last year’s exploits is still unknown, but they possess a 7-0 record on the year and a 22-0 record dating back to 2018.