TCI handed out helmet stickers to a few standout players from third-ranked Clemson’s 42-36 win over fourth-ranked Louisville on Saturday…
The Wayne Train got back onto the tracks during Saturday’s game. In a top-five matchup that put Clemson into the driver’s seat in the Atlantic Division, Gallman was the efficient workhorse back Tiger fans had pined for since the Auburn game. The redshirt junior tailback rushed for 110 yards, his best total since the season opener against Auburn, and he did it on only 16 carries. Gallman raced up the middle for a 24-yard touchdown to put the Tigers ahead 14-7 during a 28-point second quarter that gave the home team momentary control of the proceedings.
Clemson’s downfield passing game was missing something until Cain got involved. The sophomore caught four passes for a team-best 98 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Saturday’s win. He got things going for the Tigers in the vertical passing game during a second quarter that became the best period of Clemson’s season so far. Cain hauled in a 33-yard pass from Deshaun Watson with 7:48 to play before the half and backed into the end zone, then he duplicated that effort by laying out to catch a 37-yard pass four minutes and one second later. His pair of touchdowns allowed Clemson fans to breathe easier as the Tigers built a lead.
Clemson’s heart and soul on defense was (almost) everything he needed to be against a potent offense led by a dynamic quarterback capable of making almost any busted play into a monster gain. Boulware led the Tigers with a ridiculous 18 tackles in the game. A number that high generally doesn’t appear in a Clemson box score, but Louisville is no ordinary offense. Boulware had three of the Tigers’ ten tackles for loss in the game, as well as one of their five sacks on Lamar Jackson. He also recovered a second-quarter fumble and broke up a pass in Saturday’s game.
Alongside Boulware’s brilliance was safety Van Smith. The sophomore racked up a whopping 16 tackles during the Clemson victory, including an incredible 13 solo stops. This means Smith was counted on to make plays by himself in space throughout the game. Safeties are already the last line of defense, so having to make those critical stops without help is a tough job. Smith did that job with excellence against the Louisville attack.
The safety that salted away Clemson’s win at Louisville last season with an interception repeated his statistical accomplishment on Saturday. There were two major differences: The play came in the second quarter, and it was much more impressive than last year’s. As Jackson threw a high deep ball into man coverage while facing pressure, Johnson raced over toward the right sideline as the only deep safety, meaning he had to cover a great deal of ground. He dove in front of both the receiver and the cornerback to make a sprawling catch and give the ball back to the Clemson offense.
Leggett’s stat line doesn’t look overly impressive: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 70 yards, and a touchdown. However, he made two back-to-back plays late in the game that were critical in giving Clemson a six-point advantage. With Louisville’s defense confused and trying to rush a 12th defender onto the sidelines, Watson rolled right and threw back to the opposite hash mark to Leggett. The tight end beat his coverage man, then he maneuvered through a couple of additional obstacles toward the end zone. After the 31-yard touchdown, Leggett was the recipient of a jump-pass from Watson to complete the two-point conversion.
Entire Defensive Line
Tasked with stopping a presumably unstoppable Louisville offense, Clemson’s defensive line came up huge. Clelin Ferrell had six tackles and two sacks, and Albert Huggins joined him with a pair of sacks. Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins, and Carlos Watkins combined for six quarterback pressures. Watkins added a critical pass broken up in the fourth quarter and recovered a fumble in the first half.