LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When looking at the final box score from No. 2 Clemson’s 47-21 victory over 14th-ranked Louisville, it seemed like Lamar Jackson did his thing.
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner threw for 317 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another 64 yards. He made a couple of eye-popping plays like he always does. All in all, it looked like Jackson had a great night, but he did not.
Of the 381 total yards for Jackson, 201 came in the fourth quarter after the Tigers already built a 26-point lead. The Cardinals had just 219 total yards entering the fourth quarter.
At the time, Jackson completed just 12-of-26 passes for 118 yards and ran for 62 yards as his team fell behind 33-7.
“With a player like that, he is going to make plays just like he did tonight,” Clemson linebacker Dorian O’Daniel said afterward. “You just have to complement each other. Before the game, I preached to the defense that we need eleven hats to the ball. He is going to make one player miss. With a player like that, you just have to respect him.”
Clemson (3-0, 1-0 ACC) definitely respected Jackson as the defense surrounded the Louisville quarterback all night at Papa John’s Stadium. They sacked him four times and hit him several more. It seemed like every time he dropped back to pass, he had a Clemson defender almost immediately in his face.
“You respect him as a thrower and you respect him as a runner and just rally to the ball whenever he does decide to pull it down,” O’Daniel said. “Whenever he is in the pocket, just try to make him look as uncomfortable as possible.”
That’s what Clemson did in the third quarter when O’Daniel sat in his zone, read Jackson’s eyes and picked off the pass before rumbling 44 yards for a touchdown. The interception return was the Tigers’ first forced turnover of the season and Jackson’s first interception of the year as well.
O’Daniel said Louisville ran the same play earlier in the game and he was too shallow to make a play on the ball and saw it as a missed opportunity. So when Jackson went back to the same play in the third quarter, this time O’Daniel was ready. The linebacker dropped back in coverage and made the play that completely turned the game in Clemson’s favor.
“It just kind of happened, to be honest,” O’Daniel said. “Once I caught it, I knew I had to do something with it. I was too close to the end zone for me not to score. Luckily, my teammates were there to pick up blocks, crack backs and anything they needed to do to get me in the end zone.”
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said afterwards he was really happy for his senior linebacker.
“That was a great play. What a good play,” Venables said. “But he was probably happier. We were due.”
And the Tigers were prepared. Though Jackson got his yards and put up some numbers, the Clemson defense got way more and walked out of Papa John’s Stadium with a victory it wanted more than anything else.