Adam Choice

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No. 3 Clemson plays like a No. 1 in dominating Lamar Jackson, No. 14 Louisville

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Clemson may not be ranked No. 1 in the country tomorrow, but they should be. The defending national champions looked very much like a team interested in defending that title, as the No. 3-ranked Tigers smacked reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and No. 14 Louisville, 47-21 before a blacked out Cardinal Stadium crowd in Louisville.

The Tigers (3-0, 1-0 ACC) asserted their dominance from the start, forcing a three-and-out to open the game and then moving 79 yards in 10 crisply executed plays, culminating in an 8-yard Kelly Bryant keeper. Louisville (2-1, 1-1 ACC) tied the game with a 95-yard drive, the only flash of Jackson’s 2016 brilliance. He accounted for all 95 yards on the drive — with the help of a 15-yard late hit flag — with runs of 15 and 30 yards and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Charles Standberry.

Clemson reclaimed the lead for good on a 31-yard Greg Huegel field goal with 6:57 left before the half, then added some distance when Bryant found a wide open Ray Ray McCloud for a 79-yard catch-and-run score. After adding another field goal before the break, Clemson’s defense slam-dunked an exclamation point score when Dorian O’Daniel baited Jackson into an interception, then returned it 44 yards for a touchdown to hand Clemson a 26-7 lead with 8:57 left in the third quarter.

Bryant would add another rushing touchdown to close the third quarter, and would finish the night as the game’s true Heisman contender. Making his first ever road start, Bryant hit 22-of-32 passes for 316 yards with a touchdown and an interception while rushing for another 26 yards and two scores. Clemson would add two more touchdown runs, a 39-yarder by Adam Choice and an 81-yard bust by Travis Etienne. As a team, Clemson rushed 46 times for 291 yards and four touchdowns.

If Bryant is Clemson’s Heisman candidate, it’s only because the Tigers’ defense isn’t eligible. Fresh off posting 11 sacks against Auburn, Clemson sacked Jackson four times, harassing him into a pedestrian (for him) night of 21-of-41 passing for 317 yards with three touchdowns and a pick-six and 17 carries for 64 yards. The Cardinals as a team rushed 25 times for 117 yards.

No. 2 Clemson blowing out Syracuse, but Deshaun Watson leaves with shoulder injury

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No. 2 Clemson has completed dominated Syracuse through one half, leading 30-0 at Death Valley East.

The Tigers have found points on all but two of their seven possessions, including four consecutive touchdown drives before a missed field goal closed the half. The first came on just a 15-yard drive after Ryan Carter intercepted Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey in Orange territory. The other three traveled 95, 89 and 86 yards, capped by two Deshaun Watson throws.

The only negative for Clemson so far (other than a missed extra point) has been an injury to Watson’s throwing shoulder. On the Tigers’ final drive of the half, Watson landed on his right shoulder while being brought down by two Orange defenders after a 13-yard run. He fired incomplete to Adam Choice on the next play, and then removed himself from the game while pointing to his right shoulder. Trainers later took him to the locker room.

While the severity of the injury is not yet known, the 30-point spread makes it unlikely Clemson’s franchise quarterback will see the field again today.

If this is it for him, Watson finishes the day hitting 13-of-16 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns while rushing seven times for 84 yards and another score. Nick Schussler finished off the Tigers’ final drive, hitting 4-of-7 passes for 29 yards and a 5-yard scoring strike to Artavis Scott.

Dungey hit 6-of-9 passes for 48 yards and an interception before leaving due to an injury of his own. Austin Wilson entered and completed 8-of-14 passes for 48 yards and another interception.