When any sporting event has a ridiculous amount of hype around it, it’s typical that the game doesn’t meet expectations. This simply wasn’t the case last weekend. College football fans were delighted to an all-timer as the #5 Clemson Tigers showed the #3 Louisville Cardinals whose boss in an instant classic, winning 42-36.
The game started out slow, as both defenses were making plays early, leading to a 0-0 tie at the end of the first quarter. After six straight punts to start the game, the floodgates opened. Lamar Jackson actually didn’t score the first touchdown, as junior running back Jeremy Smith punched it in after a 11-play, 82-yard drive. On the next drive, Deshaun Watson would throw an interception in Cardinals’ territory, only for the ball to be given right back after a Louisville fumble.
Two plays later Watson would find sophomore receiver Deon Cain on a 33-yard strike for a touchdown, his first of two on the night. This touchdown would spark a 21-0 run by the Tigers and begin a roller coaster ride for the next 14 plays. This would include three Clemson touchdowns, two Louisville turnovers, and two straight fumbles from both sides on back-to-back plays. In a 28 second span, Watson fumbled, Brandon Radcliff fumbled for Louisville, and then a defensive interference call set up a 24-yard touchdown run by junior running back Wayne Gallman. The teams entered halftime with Clemson leading 28-10.
Bobby Petrino and his team would make adjustments at halftime, as they came out and outscored the Tigers 16-0 in the third quarter. Louisville would take full control of the game until the fourth quarter, going on a 26-0 run as they led 36-28 with under 10 minutes remaining in the game. After a 77-yard kickoff return by junior Artavis Scott, Watson would find find junior receiver Mike Williams on a 20-yard slant to cut the lead to 36-34.
The Tigers would force a three-and-out on the following Cardinals’ possession, giving Watson and the Tigers the opportunity to take the lead late in the game. Watson would then orchestrate an eight-play, 85-yard drive in under three minutes, ending with a 31-yard pass-and-run touchdown by senior tight end Jordan Leggett. Watson would go to Leggett again on the two-point conversion, giving the Tigers a 42-36 lead, capping off a legendary Clemson football drive.
The following Cardinals’ drive would be one that you will see on the highlight reel for the rest of the season. In 10 plays, Lamar Jackson leads the Cardinals down to Clemson 14 yard line, setting up a 4th and 12. Jackson, who had made Louisville football tickets the most exciting assets in college football this season, finds a pretty wide open James Quick, who casually runs out of bounds one yard before the first down mark, turning over the ball to Clemson for the win. It was one of the most boneheaded plays you will ever see, as Quick made no effort for the first down. There was a false start before the play that backed up the Cardinals five yards, so maybe Quick didn’t account for that, but it is still no way an excuse. Clemson beats Louisville 42-36.
The heavyweight fight lived up the hype. Lamar Jackson finished with 295 passing yards, 162 rushing yards and three total touchdowns. Watson put himself right back in the Heisman race, with 306 passing yards, 91 rushing yards, and five touchdowns. Louisville now falls to 4-1 and does not control the ACC and will play Duke following their bye week. Clemson has two easy opponents in Boston College and N.C. State before they visit Florida State on October 29th.