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.