It is days like Saturday’s victory over Louisville that make Clemson so special to head coach Dabo Swinney.
Somehow, though his team turned the football over five times and the Cardinals ran 99 plays, the third-ranked Tigers found a way to win a football game that many thought they had lost seven minutes earlier.
Clemson rallied from eight-points down in the final 7:52 of the fourth quarter to beat Louisville, 42-36. Quarterback Deshaun Watson threw two of his five touchdown passes in those final seven minutes … a 20-yard strike to Mike Williams and then the game winner with 3:14 play, a 31-yard pass to Jordan Leggett.
The defense also rose up and dug in their heels to first get a stop, giving the ball back to the offense one more time, then another stop at its own four-yard line with 33 seconds to play to secure the victory.
“What a special moment we all had the privilege of being a part of,” Swinney said during his Sunday teleconference with the media. “It’s what it is all about. We beat a really good team. There is no doubt about it.
“We made enough mistakes to probably lose three games so there is a lot to improve on for sure.”
The Tigers (5-0, 2-0 ACC) will get to get work on improving those mishaps this evening when they take to the practice fields to prepare for this coming Friday’s game at Boston College.
However, Swinney’s proud of the determination and character his team displayed in rallying for one of the biggest wins in the history of Clemson Memorial Stadium.
“I just can’t say enough about how proud I am of our team and our staff and the toughness and the resolve of the never-quit attitude that I saw especially watching the tape,” he said. “The guys played with incredible effort and heart, but now we are moving forward. We are 5-0 and we are looking forward to continuing to get better and try to play our best football, which I think is certainly in front of us.
“At some point we are going to put it all together. We made some mistakes and we have a lot to improve on, but the bottom line is we really rose up when we just had to have it, and made the plays to win.”
Special is back in special teams. If you want to give one reason why Clemson found a way to beat Louisville, then look no further than the kicking game. The Tigers out preformed Louisville in special teams and in the end it helped in the outcome of the game.
Punter Andy Teasdall averaged 42.8 yards per punt, dropped one at the one-inch line (officially the one-yard line) and two more inside the 20. Kicker Greg Huegel was 6-for-6 on PATs, had three touchbacks on his seven kickoffs. The ones that were returned averaged 15.3 yards and the longest was just 17 yards.
However, the big turning point in the game came when Artavis Scott returned a fourth-quarter kick 77 yards to the Louisville 23. Two plays later, Watson hit Williams for a 20-yard touchdown and the comeback was on. The Tigers were trailing by eight points prior to Scott’s return, and had just allowed 26 unanswered points.
“It is probably just our most consistent area right now,” Swinney said. “I’m proud of what we are doing there.”
Injury notes. Swinney says freshman linebacker Tre Lamar has what appears to be a sprained ankle, but they think he will be fine. He is the only new injury from Saturday’s game.
Swinney also reported he will take off the green jersey (limited contacted) Adrian Baker (knee) has been wearing in practice and will let him practice at full speed this week. The Clemson coach also said they will do the same with defensive back Denzel Johnson (hamstring).
Swinney says they are still hopeful to get defensive end Austin Bryant (foot) back on the practice field this week. But with a short week to prepare for BC, it’s not likely he will be ready to go on Friday.
Players of the game. Swinney announced his players of the game are Wayne Gallman (offense), Ben Boulware and Jadar Johnson (defense) and Artavis Scott (special teams).