Clemson’s win over Louisville last Saturday was an epic battle between two teams who wanted it bad, but only one could win the game.
In the end, the Tigers made one more play to beat the Cardinals when cornerback Marcus Edmond shoved Louisville wide receiver James Quick out of bounds a yard short of the marker to secure the Clemson victory.
Fittingly enough, it came on the 99th play of the game for Louisville as the Clemson defense somehow survived the Cardinals break-neck speed offense and quarterback Lamar Jackson.
“That certainly was not the plan, but anytime you give up five possessions you are going to give somebody more opportunities to snap the ball,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said to the media on Tuesday.
The five possessions Venables was talking about were the Tigers’ five turnovers on offense – three interceptions and two fumbles. But the Tigers held up just enough to make two stops when they need to the most.
The first came after Clemson (5-0, 2-0 ACC) cut the Cardinals lead to two points on Deshaun Watson’s touchdown pass to Mike Williams with 7:05 to play in the game.
Louisville got the ball at its own 29-yard line with 6:59 left following the kickoff. On first down Jackson’s pass to Reggie Bonnafon fell incomplete. On second down defensive tackle Carlos Watkins hurried Jackson, who completed a seven-yard pass to Jeremy Smith.
On third down, Watkins got his hands up and battled the ball down to force the only three-and-out of the second half for Louisville.
That’s when Watson engineered an 85-yard scoring drive, capped by his 31-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Leggett. That gave the Tigers a 42-36 lead, but Venables defense, which had been on the field most of the night had to reach down and find a way to get one more stop.
After Louisville drove the ball 61 yards on 10 plays, it found itself on the Clemson 14 with 40 seconds to play and facing fourth-and-12. Jackson hit Quick in the flats, and it appeared the senior would get the first down or maybe even score. But Edmond flew over, kept his leverage and knocked Quick out of bounds before he could get the first-down.
“We are real proud of our guys. It was a great challenge. Our guys played all the way to that very last play, to that final whistle, played with incredible effort,” Venables said. “Going back and watching after the game, just how hard we competed, is what you are proud of as much as anything.”
Louisville finished the game with 568 total yards, while Jackson accounted for 457 of them. It was an exhausting game, but Clemson somehow found a way to win the game when it needed to the most.
“I took all of those reps, too,” said a relieved Venables as he made the media laugh. “It’s really hard. I’m still sore.”