The stands in Memorial Stadium shook as Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware recovered a Louisville fumble in the second quarter, setting the stage for the third-ranked Tigers to score 28 points before halftime.
With 7:48 left in the first half, Clemson wide receiver Deon Cain hauled in a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Deshaun Watson to tie the game at seven.
Four minutes later with the ball resting at the Cardinals’ 37-yard line with 3:47 to go, Watson launched another deep pass into the diving arms of Cain, giving the Tigers a 21-7 lead. Two pass plays, two touchdowns. Just like that big-play Cain was back.
Last year, with Mike Williams out, Cain came on midway through the season to become Watson’s big-play target. He led the Tigers with a 17.1 yards per catch averaged and hauled in five touchdowns in six games. He rarely, if at all, dropped a single pass.
But coming off a suspension that cost him to miss both games in the College Football Playoffs and the spring, Cain had not started the year quite like he or his coaches wanted. He dropped what would have been touchdowns against Auburn, Troy and Georgia Tech.
Some wondered if he could ever get his psyche back, then came Saturday night’s big touchdown catches against Louisville.
“Yeah, it was kind of a relief. It was a big stage and every play counts in those kind of games, especially during the critical moments,” the sophomore said. “Really, just coming out with those touchdowns helped effect my team and us winning.”
Cain caught four passes for a team-high 98 yards and had two touchdowns in Clemson’s 42-36 victory.
“It just something that I am just used to and I really just wanted to stay consistent on those type of plays. I keep my momentum up with Deshaun so we can always stay connected on those routes and any other routes we have in the playbook, “ Cain said.
The sophomore says Clemson fans’ energy during the Louisville game was motivation for him to play at a high level.
“It was unreal. The fans were crazy out there,” he said. “Just the atmosphere out there was crazy and it just brought a lot of energy to me to perform out there on a higher stage. I know for my teammates it was great because everyone was watching and we had to execute to let everyone know that were still here and Clemson is going to always remain on top.
“As Deshaun said, it was kind of like a movie because of the ups and downs, but it was fun at the end of the day.”
With two great teams going head to head, the wide receiver said the Tigers knew, in order to win, it was going to come down to their ability to go out and execute during the most critical moments of the game.
“We knew it was going to come down to the last drive or critical catches or critical runs. We just kept our poise throughout the whole game. We just stayed true to our game plan,” Cain said.