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.