CLEMSON, SC - The Tigers bounced back from their embarrassing loss at Notre Dame last week, dominating Louisville from start to finish on Military Appreciation Day in Death Valley Saturday. They already had secured a spot in the ACC Championship but clinched the outright Atlantic Division title with the 31-16 win over a red-hot Louisville team that came in with 4 straight wins. It's Dabo's 9th division title, counting the shared title in 2012 and not counting the division-free 2020 season, and he came full circle with the uniforms on Saturday. Traditionally under Dabo, the Tigers have worn all purple on Military Appreciation Day to represent the Purple Heart medal. However, in his first full season of 2009, Dabo broke out the Orange Britches because the Tigers had the opportunity to clinch their first division title, which CJ Spiller and company did. I asked Dabo on Wednesday if he planned to wear the same purple and orange combo, and he kind of ducked the question. I think he wanted it to be a surprise. It's interesting, though, because this is the last year of divisions for the ACC, so the Tigers clinched their first and last division titles in the purple and orange.
The Tigers received the ball first and scored on their opening possession for the 7th time in 10 games. It was looking like the Tigers would have to punt after 5 plays, but Ngata came up with a huge 24-yard catch on 3rd and 15 to keep the drive alive and, most importantly, give DJ some early confidence. It was do or die for him, as Dabo would indicate after the game, so if DJ performed like he did against Syracuse or the first 3 quarters at Notre Dame, Dabo would have given the next start to freshman Cade Klubnik. The completion to Ngata seemed to ignite the DJ we saw in the first 7 games. After a 17-yard run by Shipley to the 12, DJ ran 11 yards for the touchdown. I thought Shipley was going to score because he faked the defender out of his shoes, but he employed one juke too many and ended up tripping himself up. He was headed straight for me in the back of the end zone, as I was shooting photos on the field for this game. My two photographers were at a family wedding, so I was down on the field instead of the press box as usual. I apologize for the shots below being out of focus! It's been a while since I had to shoot myself, and I need a new camera. I did manage to get some good shots of Antonio's touchdown. He walked right to me and got in my face in the back of the other end zone! I also was able to get some good video from the field, including the halftime tribute to the fallen. See below! It's the only time you can hear a pin drop in Death Valley. I'll add some more video footage along with the highlights and post-game interviews!
The Tigers' defense forced 3 straight 3-and-outs, aided by a Bryan Bresee sack. They took a 10-0 lead on a field goal by Potter after driving all the way to the Cardinals' 2-yard line. I was a little surprised that Dabo opted for the easy field goal rather than going for it on 4th down, but that's probably a result of how much the offense has struggled in the last couple games, and Louisville has one of the best red zone defenses in the nation. Freshman Antonio Williams had a big 36-yard catch during the drive that started with an 8-yard catch by Drew Swinney! Mafah had an 11-yard run as well.
The Cardinals' offense finally woke up with a 44-yard run by Jordan and a 19-yard completion to Hudson to end the quarter. Evans ran right through the Tigers for a 16-yard touchdown, similar to what we saw at Notre Dame last week. The Tigers went 3 and out, coming up just short of a first down when Antonio slipped and fell just short of the line to gain. However, the Tigers' defense forced a 3 and out as well. The Tigers were poised to add to their 3-point lead, driving to the Cardinals' 36, but DJ was sacked and fumbled for the first turnover of the game. Louisville leads the nation in takeaways, and I was concerned about that coming into the game with the Tigers' recent turnover proclivities. As they have done so often, however, the Tigers' defense got a stop after a turnover.
Will Shipley got the drive started with a couple runs for a first down, and the Tigers marched methodically down the field with completions to Allen, Spector, EJ Williams and Antonio Williams for a touchdown, the 3rd of his career. The Tigers benefitted by a big pass interference call on a 3rd and 8 wheel route to Shipley. Honestly, I've seen a lot worse than that not called the Tigers' way this season, so I guess they were due for a break. The TD gave the Tigers a 17-7 lead, and they wouldn't look back. With 2 seconds left in the half, the Cardinals had a Hail Mary opportunity from the Tigers' 40, but Goodwin wasn't going to give them that chance. He brought the pressure and forced Cunningham to take off and run. he put a scare into the crowd with his elusiveness, scrambling for 26 yards before Wiggins finally brought him down at the 14. It would be all Tigers in the second half!
QB Malik Cunningham never came back onto the field for the Cardinals after halftime. He had surgery on his non-throwing hand during the week and was wearing a cast, but it was apparently another injury that sidelined him. The Tigers forced a 3 and out to start the second half and proceeded to put the game out of reach. After a face mask call gave the Tigers good field position, Mafah ran for 25 yards. DJ found Antonio Williams for 12 more yards. He made another catch for a first down at the Louisville 21. Dabo pulled out the trickery with a pass from Antonio to DJ, but the play was negated by a hold on McFadden. On the very next play, however, Will Shipley exploded down the middle and hurdled a defender on his way to the end zone, putting the Tigers up 24-7!
Louisville would make a field goal to make it 24-10 going into the 4th quarter, but after the Tigers forced a turnover on downs, Mafah put the game away with a 39-yard touchdown run for a 31-10 lead. He posted his first career 100-yard game with 106 yards on just 10 carries! He has really emerged over the last 4 games with the absence of Kobe Pace, who probably could have played today and will likely be back next week. Unfortunately, the Cardinals' backup quarterback completed a 31-yard touchdown pass as time ran out to make the final score 31-16.
It was a great bounce-back performance by the Tigers, and suddenly all is right again in Clemson Nation. Just a week ago, it seemed like the sky was falling. Perhaps the loss was what this team needed to wake up. The only real negative from this game is the Tigers' troubling turnover trend, to use a lot of alliteration. They fumbled the ball 4 times against Louisville, losing 3 of them. Shipley went a season and a half without losing a fumble and has now lost 2 in the last 3 games. The good news is that DJ didn't throw an interception, and Louisville does lead the nation in takeaways. They had 8 against Wake alone a couple weeks ago! Still, that's 9 turnovers in the last 3 games for the Tigers after they had just 3 in the first 7 games. They need to get back to their old ways of protecting the football before the ACC Championship! The defense forced 3 fumbles and recovered one, and they also came up with an interception on a great play by Barrett Carter. With Trenton Simpson out due to a concussion, Carter had a tremendous game with the INT and 2 sacks. They could have used him at Notre Dame last week! The Tigers also forced a couple turnovers on downs. Louisville led the nation in sacks but only got the Tigers twice, while the Tigers' defense recorded 4 sacks.
Walker Parks, the Tigers' only Kentucky native, and Will Taylor were also out due to minor injuries. Cade came in for a series in the 4th quarter and did not attempt a pass. He did have a 13-yard run for a first down, though. Center Will Putnam, who's father is a retired colonel, had the honor of carrying the flag down The Hill before the game. Enjoy the videos below!
The Tigers have played 150 games since their last back-to-back losses in 2011! That is the longest streak in the nation, and it speaks to what this program is made of. The Tigers extended the nation's longest home win streak to 39, and they've won 67 straight games when leading at the half. They'll go for a 10th win for the 12th straight season against Miami next week at 3:30 on Senior Day!
Post-game interviews, highlights, notes and more are below!
WITH THE WIN...
Clemson clinched the ACC Atlantic Division outright. The Tigers were already guaranteed to represent the division in the ACC Championship Game by virtue of holding head-to-head tiebreakers in the event of identical conference records.
Clemson has now produced its 30th nine-win season in school history. It is Clemson's 13th under Head Coach Dabo Swinney, more than doubling College Football Hall of Famer Danny Ford (six).
Clemson has now won at least nine of the first 10 games of a season for the 16th time in school history, joining the 1939 (9-1), 1948 (10-0), 1950 (9-0-1), 1978 (9-1), 1981 (10-0), 1987 (9-1), 2011 (9-1), 2012 (9-1), 2013 (9-1), 2015 (10-0), 2016 (9-1), 2017 (9-1), 2018 (10-0), 2019 (10-0) and 2020 (9-1) campaigns.
Clemson pushed its all-time record against Louisville to 8-0.
Clemson won in its first eight games against a school for the second time all-time, joining Clemson's wins in the first 29 games of its all-time series with Virginia.
Clemson improved to 4-0 at home against Louisville all-time.
Clemson won its 39th consecutive home game to extend the longest home winning streak in ACC history. No member of Clemson’s roster has lost a home game at Clemson in their careers.
Clemson (39) tied the 2005-11 Oklahoma Sooners (39) for the ninth-longest home winning streak in FBS history.
Clemson has now gone six calendar years without a home loss. Clemson’s last home loss was on Nov. 12, 2016 against Pitt.
Clemson pushed its national-best home record in the College Football Playoff era (since 2014) to 58-1.
Clemson won its 10th consecutive game against conference opponents, dating to last season. It marks Clemson’s fifth conference winning streak of 10 or more games since the ACC’s founding in 1953.
Clemson won a seventh conference regular season game in a season for the 10th time in school history, joining the 1983 (7-0), 2012 (7-1), 2013 (7-1), 2015 (8-0), 2016 (7-1), 2017 (7-1), 2018 (8-0), 2019 (8-0) and 2020 (8-1) campaigns.
Clemson improved to 48-2 in its last 50 games against ACC Atlantic Division teams, including games against typical Atlantic division foes in the division-free season in 2020.
Clemson became the first team to win 100 games against Power Five opponents since 2013. Clemson's national-best 100 Power Five wins since 2013 include victories against Boston College (10), Wake Forest (10), Georgia Tech (9), Syracuse (9), NC State (8), Louisville (8), Florida State (7), South Carolina (7), Notre Dame (3), Ohio State (3), Miami (3), North Carolina (3), Virginia (3), Virginia Tech (3), Alabama (2), Pitt (2), Auburn (2), Oklahoma (2), Texas A&M (2), Georgia (1), Duke (1), Maryland (1) and Iowa State (1).
Clemson improved to 30-7 in games following a loss under Dabo Swinney, including season openers following a loss in the previous season finale. Clemson has not lost back-to-back games in the same season since November 2011.
Clemson played its 150th consecutive game since losing back-to-back games in a single season. Clemson's 150-game streak dating to 2011 is the nation's longest active streak.
Clemson improved to 31-6 under Dabo Swinney in games in which the Tigers enter ranked lower in the AP Poll than they did in its previous contest.
Clemson is now 74-4 when scoring first since 2015.
Clemson has now won 104 of its last 106 games, including each of its last 67, when leading at halftime.
Clemson led 24-10 entering the fourth quarter and improved to 125-2 since 2011 when leading after three quarters. Clemson has now won 66 straight games when taking a lead into the fourth quarter, dating to November 2016.
Clemson has now won 104 of its last 105 games when holding teams under 23 points (dates to 2010).
Head Coach Dabo Swinney (159) pulled within one victory of Oklahoma's Bob Stoops (160) for the second-most victories in the first 15 seasons of a head coaching career in FBS history.
Clemson gained 439 total yards, its fourth 400-yard game of the season and the Tigers’ second in their last three games.
Clemson rushed for 248 rushing yards, its third 200-yard rushing performance of the season (280 vs. Louisiana Tech; 293 vs. Syracuse). Clemson improved to 75-1 when rushing for 200+ yards under Dabo Swinney.
Clemson recorded a 26-15 advantage in first downs. Clemson now has a 122-2 record when totaling more first downs than its opponent since 2011 and has won its last 62 such contests.
Wide receiver Antonio Williams recorded career highs in receptions (10) and receiving yards (83) with a touchdown.
Williams’ previous career high in receptions was five, set three times this season. His career high in receiving yards was 76, set this season at Florida State.
Williams also added 23 punt return yards to finish with a career-high 106 all-purpose yards.
Williams’ 10 receptions were the most by a Clemson player this season and most by a Clemson player since Amari Rodgers’ 10 receptions against Pitt in 2020.
Williams’ 10 receptions tied the Clemson single-game freshman record shared by Sammy Watkins (2011 vs. Auburn) and Artavis Scott (2014 vs. Louisville and Boston College).
Williams caught his third touchdown of the season on a four-yard slant from DJ Uiagalelei in the second quarter.
On the play, Uiagalelei (33) passed Kyle Parker (32 from 2009-10) for sole possession of the eighth-most career touchdown passes in Clemson history.
Uiagalelei completed 19-of-27 passes for 185 yards with one touchdown. He also added 32 yards on a career-high 15 rushing attempts with a rushing touchdown. He also recorded a six-yard reception — the first of his career — on a pass from Williams.
Uiagalelei improved to 20-5 as a starter. He became the 10th Clemson quarterback since World War II to record at least 20 wins as a starter.
Clemson opened the scoring on an 11-yard rushing touchdown by Uiagalelei on the game’s opening possession. Clemson’s 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive was Clemson’s seventh scoring drive on an opening possession in 10 games this season.
With the rushing touchdown, Uiagalelei (13) passed Rodney Williams (12 from 1985-88) for sole possession of the seventh-most rushing touchdowns by a Clemson quarterback since 1953.
With his fifth rushing touchdown of the season, Uiagalelei set a new single-season career high in rushing touchdowns, surpassing his four in both the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
Clemson has scored at least one rushing touchdown in 64 of its 65 games since the start of the 2018 season.
Clemson’s 64 games with a rushing touchdown since 2018 are the most in the country. Clemson has also rushed for multiple touchdowns in 53 of those games, the most in the nation.
Running back Will Shipley rushed 19 times for 97 yards with a touchdown.
Shipley scored a highlight-reel 25-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, hurdling a Louisville defender en route to the end zone.
The rushing touchdown was Shipley’s 12th rushing touchdown of the season, giving him a new single-season career high, surpassing his 11 from his freshman campaign in 2021.
Running back Phil Mafah rushed 10 times for 106 yards, including a 39-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run that helped seal the victory.
Mafah’s 106 yards were a career high, surpassing his 94 against Syracuse three weeks earlier.
Mafah’s 10 carries were the fewest by a Clemson 100-yard rusher since the 2020 ACC Championship Game (10 by Travis Etienne).
Defensive tackle Bryan Bresee recorded the eighth sack of his career on a third down to end a Louisville first-quarter drive.
Linebacker Wade Woodaz recorded his first career sack and his first career forced fumble in the third quarter.
Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. and safety Jalyn Phillips combined on Clemson’s first takeaway of the game on a fumble forced by Trotter and recovered by Phillips. The forced fumble and recovered fumble were the first of Trotter and Phillips’ respective careers.
Linebacker Barrett Carter recorded his third sack of the season in the third quarter. Carter’s sack was Clemson’s third of the game and was Clemson’s 475th since 2012, the most in the nation. Entering Saturday, the next-closest team in the country was Alabama (432).
In the fourth quarter, Carter recorded his second interception of the season. It was his first since Clemson’s second game of the season against Furman.
With Phillips’ fumble recovery and Carter’s interception, Clemson recorded multiple takeaways in a game for the first time since a 30-20 win against No. 10 NC State on Oct. 1.
Carter added his second sack of the game on Louisville’s final drive. It was Carter’s first multi-sack game of his career and the first by a Clemson linebacker since Trenton Simpson also accomplished the feat at Louisville last season.
Carter finished the game with eight tackles (3.5 for loss), two sacks, an interception and a pass breakup. He became the first Clemson player under Dabo Swinney to post at least 2.0 sacks and an interception in a single game.
Carter became the first player to record 3.5 or more tackles for loss, 2.0 or more sacks and an interception in a game between two Power Five teams since South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram against Auburn in 2011.
Clemson’s four sacks tied for its second-most this season, trailing its five against Syracuse.
Clemson allowed a 44-yard first quarter run, the first run of 30 or more yards against the Tigers this season. Clemson, Iowa and Washington were the only programs in the nation to enter Saturday having not allowed a run of 30 or more yards this season.
Placekicker B.T. Potter appeared in his 65th career game to tie Nolan Turner (65 from 2017-21) for the fourth-most career games played in Clemson history.
Potter made his 50th career start at placekicker, pulling him two shy of the Clemson record at that position set by Chandler Catanzaro (52 from 2010-13).
Potter became the fourth player at any position to start 50 career games at Clemson all-time, joining punter Will Spiers (69), tackle Mitch Hyatt (57) and placekicker Chandler Catanzaro (52).
With his third point of the game on a 19-yad first-quarter field goal, Potter (429 career points) became the seventh player (and sixth kicker) in ACC history to reach 425 career points.
Potter scored in a 50th consecutive game. Potter has scored in every game since earning the starting placekicking job prior to the 2019 season after serving as the team's kickoff specialist in 2018. The Clemson record is 53 games, set by Chandler Catanzaro from 2010-13.
Clemson outscored Louisville, 7-0, in the “Middle Eight,” defined as the final four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half. Clemson improved to 62-2 since 2015 when outscoring opponents in the Middle Eight. (Note: Clemson also scored an additional touchdown 28 seconds after the Middle Eight to help extend its lead.)
Clemson offensive lineman Will Putnam led Clemson down the Hill with the American flag prior to the game for Military Appreciation day. His father, Col. Neil Putnam, served 30 years in the United States Army, including 24 years as a member of the Special Forces regiment known commonly as Green Berets.
Captains for the contest were cornerback Sheridan Jones, safety Jalyn Phillips, offensive lineman Will Putnam and wide receiver Drew Swinney.