The defenses came to play in “Death Valley.”
The Louisville Cardinals and the Clemson Tigers combined for 165 total yards of offense through two quarters of play. Yet Clemson holds a 14-10 lead.
The difference in the score came from strong special teams play and a late turnover.
After the Tigers shut down the Cardinals during their initial drive, senior wide receiver Adam Humphies returned a punt 72 yards for the game’s opening score. With 7:16 remaining in the half, senior defensive end Tavaris Barnes recovered a fumble for a two-yard score.
Otherwise, the Cardinals have been swarming on defense. And it became even more difficult for the Tigers to move the ball once Cole Stoudt was forced to replace Deshaun Watson at quarterback.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney confirmed that Watson suffered a broken finger on his throwing hand during an interview with ESPN prior to entering the locker room at halftime.
Stoudt, a senior who opened the season as Clemson’s starter, was 6-of-11 passing once he was pressed into action. Louisville freshman Reggie Bonnafon didn’t fare any better. Bonnafon completed only four passes for 58 yards.
And neither team could establish the run against these stout defenses. The two teams combined to average 1.5 yards per carry.
Both teams will need to get creative in the second half to finally get the defenses on their heels. A traditional approach from both teams hasn’t proven to be successful. A trick play or two should enter the equation, while one of the quarterbacks needs to step up and make a play to give their squad an edge in the second half.