Second-ranked Clemson jumped all over a struggling Louisville team at Death Valley in Saturday’s 77-16 win. The 61-point margin of victory topped the previous school record of 60 over an ACC opponent, which it set last month at Wake Forest.
Offensively, the Tigers (9-0, 6-0 ACC) were virtually unstoppable with 661 yards of total offense, including 492 yards on the ground, as three running backs gained over 100 yards for the second time this season.
Clemson netted 11.6 yards per play the highest mark in school history, besting the 1903 Tigers who gained 11.2 yards per play in a 73-0 win under the legendary John Heisman.
Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence played outstanding on the defensive line combining for seven tackles, a sack and three tackles for loss. The Tiger defense blew through Louisville (2-7, 0-6) racking up six sacks, nine tackles for loss and two forced turnovers. However, for the second straight week the most impressive thing from the defensive tackles was an offensive play.
When a team jumps out to incredible leads the opportunity arises to get a little creative with play calling. For example against Florida State when Wilkins ran for a one-yard touchdown behind a lead block from Dexter Lawrence, in a formation affectionately dubbed ‘The Fridge Package’ (Power-I set with Wilkins at tailback and Lawrence at fullback) in honor of former Clemson great William “The Refrigerator” Perry.
After a week of burning with jealousy and telling head coach Dabo Swinney he had to get the ball before Wilkins scored again, Lawrence received his opportunity to tote the rock on Saturday. Like Wilkins he surged into the end zone for his first rushing touchdown, but for Lawrence it marked his first collegiate touchdown of any kind.
However, unlike Wilkins who had a lot of help with Lawrence’s lead block, Lawrence ran over a couple of Cardinals to earn his two-yard score.
“I had a little more traffic to go through, I created a big hole for Christian, so it was a walk through for him,” Lawrence said. “I had it a little tougher down there.”
The Cardinals even subbed in 378-pouund defensive tackle Dejmi Dumervil-Jean to try and stuff “The Fridge Package” after seeing it in the Florida State film. Lawrence did not even see Dumervil and was surprised to hear how big he is.
“He was 378 pounds? Oh my Lord,” Lawrence said. “All I saw was where I was supposed to go and I didn’t even see him, I had no idea he was that big. Wow, I bet he’s 400.”
Lawrence easily took care of the front presented him to reach the end zone, but Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables still believes Wilkins to be the better tailback despite Lawrence’s claim of being a “natural running back.”
Venables thinks Wilkins just “has more juice in his hips.”
Lawrence’s touchdown wasn’t the only unorthodox play run by the Tigers when the margin ran high. Backup quarterback Chase Brice threw a lateral screen to offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt late in the game and Dabo Swinney’s son, Will Swinney, scored his first career touchdown on an eight-yard shovel pass late in the fourth quarter.
Lawrence, a 350-pound tackle from Wake Forest, N.C., enjoys the plays others call crazy and attributes the fun to the Tigers’ team chemistry and ability to embrace every moment.
“Our goal for this year was to enjoy every moment we get with each other,” Lawrence said. “We have a lot of seniors on the team who won’t be here next year, so we don’t want to waste anything.”
The official attendance in Death Valley was 78,741 and many of the fans stuck around until late in the fourth quarter. One reason is Clemson was one score away from breaking the stadium and ACC scoring record (82 points vs. Wake Forest in 1981), but another is the proposition of outlandish scoring plays.
As long as the Tigers keep blowing out their ACC opponents, who knows what is next? But, let’s venture to guess Wilkins will throw a touchdown pass before his time in orange is through.