July 22, 2018

Burgeoning Clemson – Louisville rivalry is what makes college football greatest reality show ever

I was one of the few in my circle who thought Louisville joining the ACC was a good thing for the conference.  My reasoning was simple and strictly about what was happening on the field (or court), not academics or off the field transgressions of varying degrees.

This week, Clemson and Louisville face off for the fourth time with the first three having been drama-filled, edge of your seat, what-college-football-is-all-about games.

A refresher: In 2014 freshman sensation DeShaun Watson was injured early, the Tigers struggled offensively and never scored an offensive touchdown.  Yet Adam Humphries returned a punt for the Tigers first score, Grady Jarrett (interesting aside, Clemson shows Tavaris Barnes scored, ESPN says Garrett) recovered a fumble for the second and Ammon Lakip kicked 3 field goals for 23-17 Clemson lead late in the fourth.  With the Cardinals 81 yards away from the goal line with 1:20 to go things were looking good for the orange and white.

That changed in one play as Will Gardner found James Quick (who has played a huge part in two of the three games) who quickly headed for the Tiger end zone and a certain game-winning touchdown. Enter Jayron Kearse who tracked Quick down at the Clemson 8. Four plays and a DeShawn Williams hand later, Clemson had a goal line stand and a win. A rivalry was born.

The 2015 season found Clemson travelling to Louisville on a Thursday night on the Tigers run to the title game.

A low scoring first half turned into a battle to the end as Clemson nursed a 20-17 lead late into the game.  The Cardinals drove the field, but missed a 38 yard field goal that would have tied the game with 2:28 to play.  On the ensuing possession the Tigers couldn’t move the ball, were forced to punt and Louisville had one last chance. A last gasp Hail Mary was intercepted by Jadar Johnson and round 2 belonged to the Tigers.

The 2016 version was a high scoring affair as eventual Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson led his team back from a 28-10 halftime deficit to a 4th quarter lead, only to be outdone by Clemson’s own Heisman candidate who found tight end Jordan Leggett, who then wound his way through the exhausted Cardinal defense for the go ahead score with 2:14 left.

It wasn’t over yet, though as Jackson and Louisville found themselves facing a 4th and 12 at the Clemson 14 with 33 ticks left on the clock. A wide open James Quick (the same James Quick that Kearse tracked down in 2014) sprinted toward the first down marker, only to be sidetracked and waylaid by Marcus Edmond a yard short of the marker.

Three games, three fantastic finishes, three Clemson wins.

The tradition and history of Clemson vs. Florida State resides at the top of ACC rivalries and the Clemson schedule as a whole, as it should.  You don’t erase decades of joy, frustration, rivalry and football lore with three compelling games and no idea of how long it will continue, and it’s not like the last three Florida State games haven’t been classics in their own way.

Perhaps my appreciation for this game is colored by it being next in line or Clemson winning all three games. Maybe I’d feel differently with different outcomes, but this game has become one of my favorites on the schedule.

Sure, 56-3 games are part of the season and playing traditional rivals is a huge part of what makes college football what it is, but the 3 Clemson-Louisville finishes are what makes college football the greatest reality show ever invented.

Episode 4 airs Saturday night.

15 Games 15 Plays – Video look at the journey from December 2008 to January 2017

A 6+ minute video detailing the journey from December of 2008 thru January 9, 2017 of Dabo and the Tigers winning the National Championship and includes fan reactions.

Featured image courtesy UPI.

Rewind: Game winning drive vs. Alabama in 2 minutes & 19 seconds

The game and National Championship winning drive vs. Alabama in 2 minutes and 19 seconds.

Rewind: Game winning drive vs. Florida State in 1 minute & 41 seconds

Game winning drive vs. Florida State in 1 minute and 41 seconds.

Rewind: Game winning drive vs. Louisville in 2 minutes & 2 seconds

The game winning drive against Louisville in 2 minutes and 2 seconds.

Before the Trophy Episode 6

“Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) signals touchdown.

In the ACC Championship Game Leggett waltzes, Big Dex swarms, Renfrow and Cain make beautiful catches and pressure allows Cordrea to end it.

Before the Trophy Episode 5

Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett (16) makes the catch. GWINN DAVIS / FOR POST AND COURIER

In Tallahassee Johnson intercepts, Huegel hits from distance, Leggett dives and the defense blasts Diondre Francois repeatedly.

Before the Trophy – Episode 3

Clemson defensive back Marcus Edmond (29). GWINN DAVIS / POST AND COURIER

Before the trophy….Deon Cain burned Louisville twice, the Wayne Train broke loose, Leggett rumbled for the lead and Marcus Edmond slammed the door.

 

Previous Episodes:

Episode 1 – Renfrow catches, Boulware intercepts, Johnson knocks down

Episode 2 – Joseph intercepts a pass, Renfrow, Wilkins and Cain  caught TD passes & Clemson beat a team from Alabama for the 2nd week in a row.

These are Good Times for Clemson

“Good Times”.

Teamwork

I’ve shown the play below multiple times, in multiple scenarios, but I’ve never specifically pointed out why this play was successful (h/t to SUR message board members who alerted me).  So, for this iteration, I’ve added a couple of freeze frames to illustrate.  At the snap of the ball Mike Williams realizes that Tavarus McFadden is blitzing, stops his route and points to him (first freeze frame Williams is near bottom left of screen under “World Series” on the crawl). Wayne Gallman, who is looking for someone to block in the middle, sees the blitz and moves back to block McFadden (second freeze frame) and stop him from blindsiding Deshaun Watson. Deshaun throws, Leggett catches and rumbles, Tigers win.