Clemson’s defense keeps denying Louisville victory

Clemson’s defense keeps denying Louisville victory


Clemson’s defense keeps denying Louisville victory


LOUISVILLE, Ky — Clemson’s 30-24 victory over Louisville Saturday looked very familiar.

In the final seconds of the game, the Cardinals drove the football to the Tigers’ 2-yard line and had four plays to score what could have been the game-winning touchdown. Instead, the Clemson defense again denied the Cardinals a victory in this short series.

Linebacker James Skalski sacked Malik Cunningham for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the two, securing the Tigers’ come-from-behind win at Cardinals Stadium.

“When they had four downs from the two, they could not get it in,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “That is what it is all about. A goal line stand, it reminds me. We had a goal line stand against these guys in the Valley that one year. I think DeShawn Williams deflected the ball, and obviously, we had Marcus Edmond with the tackle on the fourth down in the Valley that year (in 2016), and then here we are, having a goal line stand from the two.”

Williams helped Clemson win the 2014 matchup with Louisville (23-17) when he batted down Will Gardner’s pass from the one-yard line on the game’s final play in Death Valley. The Tigers intercepted a tipped Hail Mary in the end zone the following year here in Louisville for another hard-fought win (20-17). And then of course, there is the famous stop by Edmonds on Louisville’s James Quick, as the Tigers again held off the Cardinals for another six-point win (42-36) in the Valley.

Clemson (6-3, 5-2 ACC) has now defeated the Cardinals four times by a touchdown or less in the seven-game series, and in each situation, the defense had to come up with a key stop.

“That is Clemson Defense,” Swinney said. “Again, it is culture.”

And that culture came through, even on a night when the defense had perhaps its worst game of the season. The Tigers gave up a lot of explosive plays, including a 45-yard Cunningham to Tyler Harrell pass that got the Cardinals in scoring position on their final drive.

Cunningham finished the game with 134 rushing yards and two touchdowns with runs of 23 and 51 yards. The Tigers also gave up a 26-yard touchdown run to Jalen Mitchell on the game’s opening drive.

Louisville (4-5, 2-4 ACC) finished the night with 223 rushing yards.

“That is our worse game,” Swinney said. “The quarterback ran for 175 yards not counting the sacks that we had. We did not do a good job at all. Big plays. That is the most big plays we have given up all year. So, there is a lot to fix from that, but they just keep battling.”

And because they battled, they once again repeated history against Louisville.

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