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.
Why you would ever, ever punt to Dante Pettis is beyond me. Yet, here we are. Again.
In the first two weeks of the 2017 season, the Washington returner extraordinaire had taken two punts to the house, giving him seven such touchdowns for his career. In the first quarter of its Week 3 game, Fresno State opted to punt to him and, well, Pettis did what Pettis does.
In one fell swoop, Pettis tied a pair of NCAA records.
The record for career punt returns for touchdowns is now shared by Pettis with Texas Tech’s Wes Welker (2000-03) and Oklahoma’s Antonio Perkins (2001-04). Kansas State’s David Allen (1998) and North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer (2013) are the only other players to return one for a score in back-to-back-to-back games.
One of the few questions about Clemson entering tonight was Kelly Bryant‘s ability to handle his first road start, and specifically his first road start on the stage of a nationally televised primetime audience. He answered that question as early as possible.
After Clemson forced a three-and-out to open the game, Bryant moved the Tigers 79 yards in 10 plays, taking care of the last eight himself to stake Clemson to a 7-0 lead.
A pair of punts pinned Louisville’s third possession at its own 5-yard line, and Lamar Jackson handled all 95 available yards, rushing for 55 — with 15 given by a late hit — and throwing for the final 11, a strike to Charles Standberry to knot the game at 7-7 with 4:22 remaining in the first quarter.
The Tigers moved the ball on their next three possessions — a 36-yard march that ended in a missed Greg Huegel field goal, a 41-yarder that led to a made field goal, and then a 90-yard touchdown drive punctuated by a 79-yard dagger from Bryant to Ray Ray McCloud, handing Clemson a 16-7 lead with 4:06 to play in the half.
Bryant hit Deon Cain for another touchdown on Clemson’s final drive before the half, but the play was called back due to offsetting penalties. The drive ended in a career-long 49-yard Huegel field goal, providing the halftime score of 19-7. Bryant closed the half hitting 17-of-27 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown with 12 carries for 35 yards and another score.
Clemson’s defense, meanwhile, has been as good as advertised. None of Louisville’s four possessions after the touchdown lasted longer than five plays, and Jackson was limited to 7-of-19 passing for 72 yards and a score with six carries for 55 yards.
Louisville will receive to open the second half.
Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush did plenty of damage with his legs in a 49-20 victory over Boston College. Wimbush made up for a sub-par passing day by rushing for 207 rushing yards and four touchdowns, including a 65-yard run. Not to be outdone, Irish running back Josh Adams rushed for a game-high 229 yards in the road win.
If there was a key point in the second half, it may have come in the third quarter when Boston College failed to pick up a first down on a fourth-and-short at the Irish 30-yard line. The Eagles trailed 14-13 at the time and handed the ball to Jon Hilliman. In most situations, this would be a good decision for the Eagles, but it failed them this time. Notre Dame snuffed out the play and prevented Hilliman from picking up the first down. Notre Dame then orchestrated a nine-play drive to tack on a touchdown to push the lead to 21-13. Brandon Wimbush came through with the key play of the drive with his feet with a 46-yard run down the right side of the field on a 3rd and 10 from the Irish 45-yard line. Tony Jones Jr. later finished the drive with a one-yard score.
Boston College followed that sequence up by ending a drive with an interception, with Shaun Crawford picking off a pass. at the Notre Dame 27-yard line. Adams started the Irish drive with a 36-yard run, and Wimbush followed with a 33-yard pass to Durham Smythe to put the Irish inside the 10-yard line. Wimbush finished the drive by beating the BC defense to the right corner of the field to score a touchdown.
From there, Notre Dame continued to use the ground game to their advantage, scoring seven rushing touchdowns in the game.
Wimbush’s four rushing touchdowns and rushing yardage are school records for a Notre Dame quarterback.
Notre Dame will be on the road once again next week to take on Michigan State. The Spartans had a bye week this week but have gotten off to a bit of a confidence-boosting start to the season with back-to-back double-digit victories against Western Michigan and Bowling Green. Michigan State won last year’s meeting, 36-28, to snap a three-game losing streak against the Irish from 2011 through 2013.
It won’t get any easier for Boston College next week. The Eagles head to Death Valley to face defending national champion Clemson, who will either be coming off a big road win at Louisville or looking to get back on track after a loss. Either way, neither scenario is a good one for the Eagles.
Two first-half touchdown runs by Brandon Wimbush to finish off drives have given Notre Dame a 14-10 lead on Boston College at halftime. Both of the Wimbush touchdowns have finished off scoring drives fueled by Notre Dame running back Josh Adams, who already is up to 167 rushing yards so far this afternoon.
After the teams exchanged punts on the first two series of the game, Boston College was first to put some points on the scoreboard with a 38-yard field goal from Colton Lichtenberg. Notre Dame wasted little time responding with a quick, four-play touchdown drive. Wimbush punched one home from two yards out on a drive highlighted one play earlier with an Adams run of 65 yards. In the first half, Adams became the 17th Irish running back to go over 2,000 career yards.
Boston College took the lead in the second quarter with Anthony Brown completing a 22-yard pass to Charlie Callinan for six points. The touchdown drive took nine plays to cover 85 yards in just over three minutes. Jon Hilliman started the drive with a 29-yard run from the BC 25-yard line.
Wimbush finished off a second touchdown drive once again led by Adams to give the Irish the 14-10 lead before halftime. Wimbush was picked off on an overthrown pass in the last minute of the half, but Boston College was unable to take advantage and seemed to give up on the half with timeouts to spare. I’m not sure anyone is capable of explaining this coaching decision.