Saturday, the Tigers moved to 4-2 (3-1 in the ACC) with a 23-17 win over divisional foe, Louisville. While the Clemson Family celebrated an exciting win, there was also the lingering feeling of worry about the injury to star freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson. In the first quarter, Watson left the game with a finger injury, and Senior Cole Stoudt, who started the first 3 game of the season, entered the game, despite not taking a snap in practice all week due to an injured non-throwing shoulder.
Stoudt received a painkilling shot before the game, and was called into duty in the second quarter as the Tigers trailed 10-7. Watson was ruled out of the game with a broken finger on his throwing hand , and then later was announced that he would have surgery on it, and will be out for 4-5 weeks. At the earliest, Watson will return could return for the Tigers’ last ACC season finale in Atlanta against Georgia Tech. Coach Swinney said that Watson will “definitely” be ready to play by the home game against Georgia State on November 22. Barring any further complications or other injuries, Watson should be all set to go for the regular season rivalry game against South Carolina in Death Valley, with at least one post-injury game under his belt.
Without Watson, the offense sputtered, putting up no touchdowns, but the Tigers found another way to score. When Louisville faced a fourth and 16 at their own 27 yard line, they chose to punt. Clemson’s punt returner Adam Humphries then took the punt for 72 yards and Clemson’s first punt return touchdown since CJ Spiller did it against Boston College in 2009. In the second quarter, a Louisville fumble was fallen on in the grabbed in the end zone by senior DT Grady Jarrett, for his first career touchdown. The Tigers would take a 14-10 lead into halftime.
Clemson kicker Ammon Lakip added 3 field goals in the second half, while Louisville scored a third quarter touchdown. Louisville trailed 23-17, but got one more crack at it. They started with the ball at their own 19 yard line, with 1:20 remaining in the game. On first down, Louisville’s Will Gardner hit James Quick for a strike that went 73 yards. Quick had an open field and could have scored the game winning touchdown had it not been for the great effort of Clemson safety Jayron Kearse to run down Quick and tackle him at the Clemson 8 yard line. With 1:08 left, Louisville had 4 shots at the goal. 2 incomplete passes and a run for the loss of a yard set Louisville up with a do or die fourth and goal from the 9. Gardner rolled out to his right, but his attempt was batted down by Tiger defensive tackle Deshawn Williams, leading to an eruption from the Tiger faithful, as Clemson would have the ball with :21 left and get to run out the clock. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on Vic Beasley for removing his helmet prior to getting on the sideline put the Tigers at their own one, so instead of kneeling it, the Tigers got out the short yardage package, and Stoudt pushed forward to pick up a yard and, most importantly, run out the clock. Tiger fans joined their team on the field to sing the alma mater with the players and coaches, which is a Clemson tradition for all games, but had a little more excitement after such an exiting win.
The Tigers will travel north Saturday to face Boston College in the battle for the O’Rouke-McFadden trophy. Named for Banks McFadden (Clemson) and Charlie O’Rouke, this trophy, which began in 2008, commemorates 1940 Cotton Bowl, where Clemson defeated Boston College 6-3 in each programs first bowl appearance. McFadden and O’Rouke were the star players for their respective schools in that game. Clemson leads the all time series against the Eagles 12-9-2, and has a 5-1 record since the Boston College Gridiron Club began awarding the trophy to the winner in the 2008 season. The game will kickoff at 3:30 and be televised on ESPNU