It appears No. 3 Clemson could be in for a bit of a tougher road battle than originally anticipated. The heavy road favorites lead Louisville 17-3 at halftime in a game that has seen the Tigers turn the football over twice in the red zone. Fortunately for Clemson, the defense has a pair of takeaways to make up for the offensive miscues.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has now been intercepted eight times this season, doubling his entire interception total from the 2018 season. Jack Fagot and Russ Yeast have each come up with picks off the star quarterback. Lawrence may not have been the starting quarterback for the Tigers to begin last season, but his increased interception total is something to keep an eye on as the season continues.
Fortunately for Clemson, the sophomore quarterback doesn’t take long to remind those watching just how good he really can be. Lawrence led Clemson to a touchdown drive in the second quarter with a big gain by Amari Rodgers on a 61-yard pass. A pass on third and goal to freshman Joe Ngata by Lawrence ended the drive with Ngata jumping high to come down with the ball in the back of the end zone. Lawrence’s second touchdown of the half came shortly before halftime with a toss-up brought down by Justyn Ross.
While the Louisville defense is doing everything it can to keep this game from getting out of hand, the Cardinals absolutely need to find ways to protect the football better and get some more drives going. Against this Clemson defense, that is much easier said than done. But the game may be playing out the way Louisville needs it to if they are going to push Clemson down to the wire the way North Carolina did earlier this season.
After beating Clemson in the Carrier Dome two years ago and nearly doing the same in Death Valley East last year, tonight’s Clemson-Syracuse game was billed preseason as a meeting of the ACC’s two best teams, a de facto ACC semifinal even. Pretty much all of that hype evaporated when Syracuse was crushed 63-20 by No. 21 Maryland last week, but, still. If this is truly the ACC’s second-best team… woof.
Trevor Lawrence tossed two interceptions and generally put in a workmanlike effort, and still the defending champions won with ease: No. 1 Clemson 41, Syracuse 6.
Lawrence completed 22-of-39 passes for a career-high 395 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing four times for 42 yards and an additional score. Most of his success through the air came on jump balls and screens to his massive, speedy wide receivers. Tee Higgins caught seven passes for 150 yards, Amari Rodgers snared four for 121 yards and two scores, and Justyn Ross snared five passes for 64 yards.
The heroes of the night were the Tigers’ defenders. Clemson (3-0, 2-0 ACC) limited Syracuse (1-2, 0-1 ACC) to 184 yards of total offense. Orange quarterback Tommy DeVito was 15-of-27 for just 172 yards with an interception and while absorbing six sacks.
If there was one moment of drama on the night, it came early in the third quarter when, trailing 17-6, Syracuse linebacker Christopher Frederick intercepted Lawrence and returned the ball to the Clemson 9, but DeVito gave the ball right back by throwing it to Clemson’s Mario Goodrich.
Lawrence hit Rodgers for an 87-yard touchdown two plays after that and the game was all but over.
It hasn’t been a spectacular effort from the No. 1 team in the country, and that’s the scary part.
Clemson has methodically put Syracuse in a headlock over the first half at the Carrier Dome, carrying a 17-6 lead to the locker room.
The Tigers opened the scoring with a 16-yard strike from Trevor Lawrence to Amari Rodgers, then on the next drive Lawrence scored himself on a 1-yard keeper.
Syracuse had something cooking late in the first half when consecutive swing passes to running back Moe Neal went for 50 and 17 yards, taking the ball from the Syracuse 25-yard line to the Clemson 8, but the Orange stalled from there and settled for a 25-yard Andre Szmyt field goal.
Lawrence is a workmanlike 13-of-25 for 198 yards while Travis Etienne has 40 yards on nine carries. For Syracuse, Tommy DeVito is 9-of-17 for 139 yards with minus-32 rushing yards.
Clemson’s biggest test a year ago during the regular season was going into College Station and holding off a furious second half rally from Texas A&M. Facing perhaps their biggest test on paper of the 2019 regular season, the No. 1 ranked Tigers needed neither a close call nor a late stand at the goal line in order to dispatch the No. 12 Aggies 24-10 and extend their FBS-best win streak to 17 in a row.
Heisman Trophy favorite Trevor Lawrence continued to dazzle in the Clemson passing game, leaning on his outstanding group of receivers to help throw for 268 yards (one pick) and a touchdown pass to a wide open Justyn Ross (94 total yards to go with the score). Tee Higgins chipped in with 70 yards receiving while the big news to emerge from the game came in the form of Amari Rodgers, who caught two passes for six yards less than six months after he tore his ACL.
Tailback Travis Etienne was bottled up by his standards, rushing for just 53 on the ground but finding other ways of contributing with four catches for 52 yards. It was a slow start overall for the Tigers offense, which was blanked in the first quarter but ran off 24 unanswered after that to turn an interesting game into a comfortable victory over a top 15 program.
The offensive output from the Aggies was not exactly what Jimbo Fisher had in mind for his return to Death Valley in a slightly different shade of dark red. Quarterback Kellen Mond was far from the guy we saw in last year’s meeting, throwing for 236 yards, a touchdown and an interception while also fumbling once and generally throwing a bit high on his passes all afternoon. The rushing game didn’t do him much favor with just 53 yards total but after a few early drives looked promising, the SEC visitors simply couldn’t get over the hump and make things close enough to truly threaten the defending champions.
The A&M defense did seem pretty solid overall on their side of the ball against one of the best offenses in the country but a handful of injuries, some cramps and a few missed tackles and assignments were enough to open the door for the home team. The good news is the Aggies return home and won’t leave the state of Texas until late October — having a pair of stiff tests upcoming with top 10 programs Auburn and Alabama coming to Kyle Field down the road.
As for Clemson, they passed the test in what could be their only game during the regular season against a ranked opponent given Syracuse’s earlier blowout loss to Maryland. To say Dabo Swinney’s team carries the ACC banner at this point is an understatement but the affable head coach is no doubt happy to celebrate the ‘W’ and another impressive defensive effort. This still isn’t a team that is hitting on all cylinders early in their 2019 campaign but that might not matter after getting past A&M on Saturday.
As was feared earlier in the day, Clemson wide receiver Amari Rodgers has indeed suffered a torn ACL, according to multiple reports. While numerous outlets reported earlier Tuesday that Rodgers had suffered an undisclosed leg injury, Larry Williams of Tiger Illustrated reported this afternoon it is indeed a torn ACL.
While the program has not announced the injury, Rodgers himself has confirmed an injury of some kind. TigerNet reported Rodgers was carried out of practice on Monday night, though Dabo Swinney did not mention it during his post-practice media session.
Rodgers was one of three stellar underclassman pass catchers for the Tigers during their 2018 title run. As a sophomore, Rodgers ranked second on the team with 55 catches covering 575 yards and four touchdowns. He trailed freshman Justyn Ross and fellow sophomore Tee Higgins in yards and touchdowns.
He posted his best career game in Clemson’s 59-10 drubbing of Florida State on Oct. 27, catching six passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns.