ACC

Clemson plays far from perfect but still blasts Louisville

Trevor Lawrence threw two interceptions in the first quarter, a freshman defender was ejected after throwing a punch and new Clemson starting kicker Steven Sawicki missed his only field goal attempt.

There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Tigers Saturday afternoon against Louisville, but enough went right for Clemson to pull away for a 45-10 victory at Cardinal Stadium.

Clemson scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to turn a close game into a laugher and improve to 7-0 (5-0). Louisville falls to 4-3 (2-2) with the loss.

“We knew it was a game where we were going to have to eventually knock them out, because they were not going to give up,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “Eventually that’s what happened. We were able to take the game over.”

The afternoon could not have started much worse for Clemson as Lawrence was 3-for-7 passing for 9 yards and two interceptions in the first quarter. The sophomore was picked off twice in the end zone as Clemson held a 3-0 lead after 15 minutes of play, going up against a defense that surrendered 59 points to Wake Forest last week.

But he quickly got on track in the second quarter, connecting on all nine of his attempts for 156 yards and two touchdowns in the second quarter alone. Lawrence finished 20 of 29 passing for 233 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions. The Tigers had 11 different players catch a pass.

“He ran the ball well, he showed great leadership. And rolling through some adversity … we win the game 45-10, you think, ‘Oh, what kind of adversity?’ There was plenty of adversity, plenty of challenges in that game,” Swinney said. “It’s a four-quarter game. I’m proud of our guys and how they responded. I’m really proud of Trevor and how he responded. He finished up exceptionally well.”

Travis Etienne rushed for 192 yards and a touchdown as the Tigers finished with 298 yards on the ground. Chez Mellusi and Darien Rencher also had touchdown runs for Clemson.

Justyn Ross, Cornell Powell and Joseph Ngata caught touchdown passes for the Tigers.

“We were ready to play. Guys were hungry. They were focused,” Swinney said. “Last time we went on the road I didn’t like our focus. I thought North Carolina was more eager to win the game than we were. That was not the case today.”

THREE POINTS

Star of the game: Clemson was without star defensive end Xavier Thomas, who missed the game with a concussion. Enter Justin Foster into the spotlight. The junior had 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble, putting together the most productive game of his career.

Play of the game: Clemson led 10-3 late in the first half when Lawrence threw a jump ball up to Justyn Ross, who went up and made a spectacular grab. Lawrence put the ball where only Ross could make the catch. He caught the ball in the back of the end zone and was just able to get his foot down for a score to give the Tigers a 17-3 halftime lead.

Stat of the game: 6: Clemson had six different players find the end zone as Travis Etienne, Chez Mellusi, Darien Rencher, Justyn Ross, Cornell Powell and Joseph Ngata all scored touchdowns.

OBSERVATIONS

B.T. Potter is once again the starting kicker: A week after losing his job to Steven Sawicki, it appears that Potter is once again Clemson’s starting field goal kicker. The sophomore, who entered the game as Clemson’s long field goal kicker but not short, nailed a 51-yarder on Clemson’s first drive. When Sawicki missed a 44-yard field goal early in the third quarter, it was Potter who kicked the extra point on Clemson’s final four touchdowns.

Lawrence is still trying to do too much: The star quarterback forced two throws in the first quarter, with both resulting in interceptions. He now has eight interceptions on the year after throwing four during all of the 2018 season.

Good luck against Clemson’s defense: The Tigers were without arguably their best defensive lineman, had a starting cornerback go out early in the second half and still held an offense that scored 62 points last week at Wake Forest to three points until late in the fourth quarter.

NEXT

Who: Boston College (4-3, 2-2) at No. 3 Clemson (7-0, 5-0)

When: Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Memorial Stadium

TV: ACC Network

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Matt Connolly is the Clemson beat writer and covers recruiting and college sports for The State newspaper and The State.com
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