By Dalton Ray —
Highlighted with ESPN’s College GameDay, football’s match-up with third-ranked Clemson ended with a dud. Lead by quarterback Kelly Bryant, the Tigers put up 613 yards of offense en route to a 47-21 win.
Louisville only scored seven points in the first three quarters against the defending champions. Like it or not, the Cardinals made a statement in the 26-point loss.
Clemson is a national power. Even with the loss of so many players to the NFL, they are still the team to beat in the ACC and likely a college playoff member.
Playing this type team early shows a program where they are. Louisville had many questions answered after their loss.
Louisville’s offensive line wasn’t out powered like one may have expected, but out schemed. The Tigers brought exotic blitzes that slowed the Cardinals offense.
The defensive line held their own, for the most part, of the first half. Midway through the third quarter, Clemson’s offensive line had wore down Louisville’s defensive line.
Clemson ran inside zone consistently during the game, gashing the Cardinals. In the fourth quarter, the Tigers’ persistence was paid off with touchdown runs of 39 and 81 yards.
Missing their chance
Louisville’s only marque game of 2017 is now in the rear-view mirror.
The remaining home games for the Cardinals are Kent State, Murray State, Boston College, Syracuse and Virginia — not exactly an impressive bunch.
The biggest remaining game is on the road against Florida State. A top 25 team, the Seminoles lost their starting quarterback Deondre Francois in week one. Even if Louisville beats FSU, it’ll likely be marked with an asterisk.
Louisville also has road games against North Carolina State and Kentucky, but neither games are hat-hanging wins for an ACC power that Louisville strives to be.
After the first two weeks, Lamar Jackson became the Heisman favorite once again.
With a chance to electrify the nation once again, Jackson didn’t have his best game against Clemson. Most of Jackson’s stats came in garbage time in the fourth quarter and his biggest run of the game, 45+ yards, was negated by a penalty.
Louisville doesn’t have the schedule for Jackson to prove he can win it again. The odds are now against him, but Jackson will have to put up more impressive numbers than last year to win back-to-back Heisman trophies.
Jackson seemed to be alone when facing Clemson.
At half time, only four receivers caught a pass. The Cardinals running backs, Malik Williams and Reggie Bonnafon, only had three rushes.
Louisville’s offense was obviously disrupted by Clemson’s staggering defense, but the Tigers isolated Jackson.
Going into the fourth quarter, Clemson’s receivers out-gained Louisville’s 283 yards to 118 yards.
Bend, don’t break
Louisville’s defense held Clemson to 19 points in the first half. Multiple times during the first 30 minutes, Clemson moved into Louisville’s side of the field.
Aside from one blown coverage leading to a 79-yard touchdown pass, Louisville’s defense held their own in the first half.
The defense gave U of L a chance to win the game or take a lead, but the Cards couldn’t answer. Louisville couldn’t get off the field on third down, leading to a Clemson-dominate time of possession battle.
Preseason All-American cornerback Jaire Alexander exited the season-opener game in the first half with a lower leg injury. After the game, coach Bobby Petrino said the injury wasn’t serious.
Alexander sat out game two against North Carolina, which many seen as a precaution.
In Louisville’s biggest game of the season, they didn’t have their second-best player in Alexander, which means the injury might be more serious than expected.
A star in the making
It’s tough to find a bright spot in a blowout, but here it goes.
Sophomore Jonathan Greenard is a playmaker for the defense off the bench. If Greenard continues to make plays, he may not be on the bench for long.
With Clemson leading 7-0 on a third-and-nine in the first quarter, Greenard sacked Kelly Bryant for a 14-yard loss.
Tied at 7-7 in the second quarter, Clemson began driving down the field. On another third-and-nine, Greenard sniffed out a screen pass and nearly picked off the pass.
You can follow Dalton Ray on Twitter @dray5477.
Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal