Posted on September 17, 2017, by Travis Pulver
When the college football season began, Louisville quarterback and current Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson was not considered a front-runner for the award this season. Some people couldn’t believe that and then stood on their high chairs and screamed “I told you so!” when he lit up Purdue and had a stellar day against North Carolina. Sure enough, he became the front-runner after those two games.
But to remain the front-runner he had to do something Saturday night—prove his supporters are right against one of the best defenses in college football.
But he couldn’t.
Jackson ended the game with another 300+ yard, three touchdown day (and 67 yards on the ground) but much of his production came in garbage time after Clemson had put the game far out of reach of the Cardinals.
“We just didn’t play our game today,” Jackson said following the game (ESPN). “We came out, we weren’t scoring points. The offense did a horrible job tonight.”
It wasn’t so much that Louisville didn’t play their game. The Clemson defense didn’t allow them to. Jackson completed just six of 18 passes for only 118 yards through three-quarters. They also sacked the elusive Jackson four times and intercepted him once (and returned it for a touchdown).
Louisville’s offensive line had only given up two sacks in the first two games of the season. The pick-6, which ended Louisville’s first drive of the second half, was the first turnover for the Clemson defense of the season.
“We had control of the game,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said after the game (ESPN). “We had pressure up front, our positioning was good on the back end, and our guys executed pretty cleanly and rose to the challenge.”
Louisville’s defense had trouble against Purdue and North Carolina, and the struggle continued against Clemson. Kelly Bryant had the first 300+ yard passing day of his young career (22-32 for 316 yards and one touchdown. He also accounted for two more touchdowns in the ground game (18 carries, 26 yards).
Does Kelly Bryant’ name deserve to be included in certain conversations?
“All I was trying to do was do my job. Nothing more, nothing less,” Bryant told reporters (ESPN). “We could have done better, but I did everything the coach wanted me to do.”
Clemson’s ground game gashed the Cardinals for 297 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Travis Etienne led the way with 98 yards and a touchdown on six carries followed by Tavien Feaster (10 carries for 92 yards.
Lamar Jackson will get a chance to bounce back next week against Kent State (kickoff at 12 PM ET). His Heisman chances could bounce back as well. Of the teams left on Louisville’s schedule, they only have two potentially competitive games remaining (Florida State and Kentucky).
Next up for Clemson will be Boston College (kickoff at 3:30 PM ET next Saturday). The Tigers will have a bigger challenge on their hands the following week when they travel to Blacksburg, Virginia, to face the Hokies.