College Sports

5th-ranked Clemson hangs on for 42-36 victory over No. 3 Louisville

Clemson quarterback Deshaun, right, tries to avoid Louisville’s James Hearns during the first quarter of Saturday night’s ACC football game in Clemson, S.C.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun, right, tries to avoid Louisville’s James Hearns during the first quarter of Saturday night’s ACC football game in Clemson, S.C. Getty Images

Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett sure did a nice job of cleaning up after himself Saturday.

It was Leggett’s second-half fumble that squandered a promising drive for the fifth-ranked Tigers and sent third-ranked Louisville on the path to the lead.

Then Leggett made up for his mistake, catching a 31-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and also scoring on the resulting two-point conversion in Clemson’s 42-36 ACC victory.

Clemson had to survive a late drive by Louisville all the way to the 9. The Cardinals committed a false start, moving the ball back to a fourth-and-12 situation. Clemson safety Van Smith tackled Louisville wide receiver James Quick before he reached the first-down marker to take possession with 33 seconds left.

The Tigers were far from tidy in this one, committing five turnovers. Quarterback Deshaun Watson completed 20 of 31 passes for 306 yards and five touchdowns. But Watson also threw three interceptions.

Watson’s Louisville counterpart, Lamar Jackson, completed 27 of 44 passes for 295 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Three who mattered

Jaire Alexander: Charlottean Alexander (who played at Rocky River) picked off two Watson passes for the Cardinals.

Ben Boulware: Clemson’s senior linebacker was all over the field, blowing up Louisville plays in the first half, and he appears key to keeping a young defensive line lined up right.

Jackson: He picked it up big-time in the second half after a mistake-filled first half.

Observations

▪  The home crowd provided exceptional noise early when Louisville had the ball and the effect was immediate. The Cardinals had two false-start penalties on their opening possession.

▪  Louisville had a breakthrough play when tight end Cole Hikutini created separation from Boulware for a 28-yard catch down the seam.

▪ Artavis Scott returned a kickoff 77 yards in the fourth quarter to get Clemson back in this game.

▪  Clemson played a lot of quick-strike football in the first half. The Tigers’ yards-per-play was 9.2, compared to 4.1 for Louisville.

▪  Clemson’s Carlos Watkins blocked a Louisville extra-point try in the third quarter.

Worth mentioning

▪  U.S. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell attended the game in the Clemson press box. McConnell graduated from Louisville.

▪  Wild statistic entering this game: Jackson threw for 13 touchdowns and rushed for 12 more in the Cardinals’ first four games. So he avereaged 37.5 points per game.

▪  The weather was sure an improvement on a year ago, when Clemson beat Notre Dame in a monsoon.

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