LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Though the coaches want to go back and watch the film before they make anything official, it appears Clemson has found its starting running back.
Though the second-ranked Tigers’ four running backs, and quarterback Kelly Bryant, combined for 297 rushing yards on what was the nation’s top run defense in their 47-21 win over No. 14 Louisville on Saturday, it was Tavien Feaster that shined at the biggest moments when the game was still in doubt.
The sophomore from Spartanburg, S.C., finished the game with 92 yards on 10 carries, while catching one pass for seven yards at Papa John’s Stadium in Louisville, Ky. Though freshman running back Travis Etienne excited the Clemson faithful with his 81-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, it was Feaster’s running, especially in the third quarter that allowed Clemson to put the game away.
“I have to go back and watch the tape,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Tony Elliott said. “I thought he ran the ball hard. I know he did give up one of the sacks up the middle. He tried to cut block, but was a little bit too low and the backer jumped over him.
“I thought he ran the ball hard.”
Feaster owned his mistake after the game, but overall he thought he played well.
“With pass blocking, I still have to get better with that,” he said.
As for making a case to be Clemson’s starting running back, Feaster said he will let Elliott control those things. As for Saturday’s performance, the former 5-star said he had fun.
“Tonight just felt different,” Feaster said. “I was able to be in there a little bit longer and get in a rhythm. I definitely felt good tonight.”
Road Warriors. Clemson won its 11th consecutive true road game, establishing a school record. The previous mark was 10 in a row over the 1939 and 1940 seasons.
Clemson’s 11-game road winning streak is tied for second best in the nation with Alabama. Oklahoma has the longest at 12 in a row. The Tigers have won nine consecutive games away from home (away and neutral) dating to the loss to Alabama in the 2016 National Championship Game at the end of the 2015 season in Phoenix, Ariz.
Big-game winners. Clemson is now 9-1 in matchups of top 15 teams over the last three years and 12-1 in its last 13 games against teams ranked in the top 25 of at least one poll. Clemson has won a school record seven straight games over Associated Press top 25 teams.
Tigers own the Atlantic. Clemson has won 18 consecutive Atlantic Division games in the ACC, a streak that dates to a 2014 game at Florida State. The Tigers have won 18 of their last 19 ACC games.
Overall, Clemson has won 34 of its last 36 games dating to the 2014 season.
Bryant did something Deshaun Watson did not do. Bryant is the first Clemson quarterback since Tajh Boyd to win his first two games vs. a top 25 team as the starting quarterback. Boyd won his first three, all in consecutive games in 2011. Bryant will get a chance at a third on Sept. 30 at Virginia Tech. Boyd’s third top 25 win in his streak was at Virginia Tech. Boyd’s first in the streak was against Auburn, the same team Bryant beat in his first career start.
Huegel moves into eighth place. When Greg Huegel kicked a 31-yard field goal in the second quarter he moved into eighth place on Clemson’s career scoring list. It gave him four points and 264 for his career, three more than Chris Gardocki, who held eighth place with 261 heading. Gardocki played at Clemson from 1988-‘90.
Huegel then kicked a 49-yard field goal in the last minute of the first half, the longest of his career. His previous long was 47 yards.
It has been a while. The 79-yard scoring pass from Bryant to Ray-Ray McCloud in the first half was the longest offensive play for the Tigers since November 2, 2013 when Tajh Boyd connected with Sammy Watkins on a 96-yard scoring pass at Virginia.
McCloud had 7 catches for 115 receiving yards, all in the first half to go with that touchdown. It was a career-high for the junior in reception yards. His previous best was 101 receiving yards at Georgia Tech last year.
Now we see. Etienne’s 81-yard rush for a touchdown was the longest by any Clemson back since C.J. Spiller raced 83 yards against Auburn in the 2007 Chick fil a Bowl. It was the longest run by a Clemson freshman since 1945 when Bobby Gage had an 88-yard run against Presbyterian.
Secret weapon. Will Spiers 51.8-yard punting average on four punts, tied for the third best single-game average in Clemson history.
—Photo Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports