CRAWFORD | At the buzzer: Cards come a yard short, Clemson wins - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | At the buzzer: Cards come a yard short, Clemson wins 48-36 in Death Valley

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CLEMSON, S.C. (WDRB) -- A chippy first half that ended with No. 5-ranked Clemson pulling away from the No. 3-ranked University of Louisville football team blossomed into a second-half classic, with Louisville coming back, grabbing an eight-point lead, then Clemson answering to take a 42-36 victory.

It was a classic college football game in the end, with Clemson fans storming the field afterward. Louisville had its chance. But a 4th and 12 pass from Lamar Jackson to James Quick came up a  yard short when Quick was knocked out of bounds.

Neither defense could do much with the other. Louisville’s pitched a shutout in the third quarter, but couldn’t stop Clemson after Louisville took an eight-point lead.

A three-and-out after Clemson came back within two ended up haunting Louisville.

Still, Lamar Jackson had a Heisman-worthy performance. As did Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Tigers now have a clear path to the Atlantic Division championship. The Cardinals are far from out of it. Their second-half comeback ratified the team’s toughness and talent.

Quick thoughts on the game:

1). GOT THE JOB DONE. It took a while, but Lamar Jackson showed up, composed himself at halftime and played a dominant second half against one of the nation’s best defenses.

And Jaire Alexander kept finding ways to bring the Cardinal defense back from the dead. The cornerback had a pair of interceptions and a forced fumble, giving the Louisville defense big plays it needed when the Clemson offense was hitting its stride.

For Clemson, Ben Boulware was a constant nightmare for the Cardinals, and not just because he brought Jackson down with a choke-hold in the first half.

Watson played like the Heisman contender he is. He threw five touchdown passes and in general lit up the Cardinals -- when he wasn’t throwing interceptions. He completed 20 of 31 passes for 306 yards, 5 TDs and 3 interceptions.

And Louisville had no answer for running back Wayne Gallman, who carried 16 times for 110 yards and a touchdown.

Jackson wound up running for 162 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for 295 yards and a score.

2). DIDN’T GET THE JOB DONE. In a great game, I don’t think anyone deserves the collar in this one. The Cardinals’ offensive line didn’t have its best night, but showed up in the second half and helped bring the Cards back.

On the final play, U of L receiver James Quick will be criticized for not fighting for the final yard, but it’s tough when your momentum is going out of bounds.

3). TURNING POINT. An interception on Clemson’s first drive of the second half, after the Tigers had taken all the momentum at halftime, signaled a big change for the Cardinals, who controlled the next quarter and a half, before Clemson responded.

4). SURPRISE, SURPRISE. After all the talk of offense, there were no pass completions in the first two drives and both teams finished the first quarter scoreless.

5). STAT OF THE DAY: Clemson has won 19 straight games at home, and has given up only three first-quarter points all season. It played a role.

6). WHAT WE LEARNED. Lamar Jackson is Heisman worthy. The Cardinals still have some defensive work to do if they want to be a playoff team. And Clemson is in the driver’s seat in the ACC, especially after Florida State’s loss on Saturday.

7). WHAT’S NEXT: Louisville gets a week off, and it will need it, before pressing ahead against Duke.

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FIRST HALF STORY:

CLEMSON, S.C. (WDRB) -- The Clemson defense came out like it had heard about enough about the University of Louisville offense and Lamar Jackson.

The nation’s No. 3 overall defense locked down the nation’s top overall offense in the first half in Death Valley, holding Jackson to 27 net yards rushing, intercepting him once and recovering a pair of Cardinal fumbles to set the tone for a 28-10 halftime lead.

The Tigers punctuated their defensive effort with one shot that was making the rounds of social media -- linebacker Ben Boulware bringing down Jackson with a choke-hold.

But what really hurt Louisville was its own response to adversity. The Cardinals lost their composure, picked up some costly personal foul penalties and gave up a late-half 4-play, 78 yard drive in just 28 seconds after Clemson took over in its own territory with just 35 seconds to play in the half.

The problem on that drive, as it was for the entire second half, was defending the deep ball from Watson. After connecting once, Watson started to find the mark repeatedly, with Louisville’s defensive front unable to lay a hand on him.

Watson hit on 11 of 12 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns in the second quarter.

Louisville began to unravel in a 1:59 stretch in which Clemson erased a 7-0 deficit by scoring two touchdowns, recovering two fumbles and intercepting a Jackson pass.

“We have to get our poise back,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino told ABC in a halftime interview.

The Cardinals were called for 9 penalties for 94 yards in the first half alone, including a 15-yarder by Jamari Staples after he removed his helmet while protesting a pass-interference no-call.

Louisville struggled from the start. Its first two snaps of the game were interrupted by illegal procedure calls. It took two series before Jackson completed his first pass.

Clemson sacked Jackson four times and had three other tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The Louisville defense recorded just a single tackle for loss.

No question, the Louisville offense can score points quickly and make a game of it -- but the defense has some work to do to be competitive. In addition to Watson’s passing, Clemson is averaging 7.6 yards per carry and running back Wayne Gallman has carried for 73 yards on just seven carries, with a touchdown.

Jackson in the first half completed 10 of 21 passes for 111 yards and an interception.

A full recap to come immediately after the completion of the game.

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PREGAME STORY

CLEMSON, S.C. (WDRB) -- An admission: When I’m listening to the standard promotions for upcoming college football programming on Saturday morning, and they tell me about Michigan-Wisconsin and Tennessee-Georgia and several other name-brand games all culminating in the day’s main event -- Louisville at Clemson, I’m still not used to hearing it.

For a program that just got here, I wonder how much of that affects the University of Louisville football players. Not necessarily what’s in the media. The players are kept pretty busy. They watched a little football in their long day of waiting for Saturday’s 8:22 p.m. ABC kickoff against Clemson, but for the most part were kept busy with meals and meetings.

“It reminds me of playing a Monday Night Football game,” former Cardinal quarterback Chris Redman said in the lobby of the team’s hotel. “You just spend the day waiting.”

A great many of the fans milling around the hotel lobby have been waiting for far longer than a day.

Maybe that’s why there were more people on hand to greet the team when it arrived at Death Valley than there used to be for some home game Card Marches not so long ago.

The Main Event.

And I do mean the Main Event. Florida State’s loss to North Carolina likely means this game is it for the ACC’s Atlantic Division. A two-way tie goes to the head-to-head winner. The stakes just got higher -- as if they needed to.

For Louisville, I’m going to give you five keys:

1). Handling the moment. I don’t think this will be a problem, but it bears saying. Avoid early mistakes. Manage the game’s momentum. Clemson is taking a lot of the hype surrounding this game personally. They’re taking a lot of the attention Louisville has gotten the first four weeks of the season personally. Louisville is going to have to match that emotion level and might have to absorb some punches of its own and show it can answer back. Regardless, it can’t get in a hurry, or get frustrated. If it just operates on offense, it should move the ball.

2). Short passing game. It was non-existent at Marshall, and I think there was a reason for that. I expect it will be the staple against Clemson. The Tigers figure to commit to bottling up sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson. They’re fantastic defensively up the middle. Look for Louisville to utilize short passes as a short cut to the perimeter, where its receivers can get into space, and more crossing routes for James Quick and Cole Hikutini. Look for Reggie Bonnafon to be more involved than at any point so far this season.

3). Stopping the deep ball. A vulnerability of Louisville’s defense the past couple of seasons is that an accurate quarterback with a strong arm could “take the lid off” by connecting deep. This year’s Louisville team really hasn’t been tested deep. Receivers have come free, but the passes haven’t been on target. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson can put them on target. Mistakes in coverage, blown coverage, those will become points against the Tigers. The Cardinals, either by pressure or by coverage, need to keep Clemson from the home-run ball.

4). Winning the first, winning the fourth. Louisville has scored 77 points in the first quarters of its four games. Clemson has given up only three first-quarter points. Something has to give. The ability to execute early and get leads has been important to Louisville defensively. It needs to make something positive happen early to get a handle on momentum. In the fourth quarter, Clemson’s defensive depth is an advantage. Louisville’s first-team really hasn’t had a to play a fourth quarter all season. The Cardinals have quality in their starting lineup, but some reserves are going to have to play their best games in this one. This shapes up as a close, down-to-the-wire type of game. We’ve seen Louisville come up just short in some of those in past years. We’ll see if it has developed the depth, and conditioning, to keep that from happening here.

Other thoughts:

LOUISVILLE OPPONENTS NOT SHINING: We know Marshall has struggled and Charlotte isn’t good. Syracuse, however, continued to allow massive yardage gains in a 50-33 loss to Notre Dame. Syracuse, Marshall and Charlotte are all among the 10 worst defenses in FBS. Florida State’s will drop more after its 38-35 loss to North Carolina.

BOZICH’S KEYS TO THE GAME: Rick Bozich broke down the matchup earlier this week. Get his take right here

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