5 things we learned from Clemson’s win against Louisville

Dabo Swinney recaps impressive running performance against Louisville

Tigers rushed for 492 yards in victory
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Tigers rushed for 492 yards in victory

Clemson dominated Louisville on Saturday afternoon in an ACC matchup. The Tigers will now travel to face Boston College with an opportunity to clinch the ACC Atlantic with a victory. Here are five things we learned from Clemson’s win against Louisville:

Travis Etienne responded well to being challenged

Clemson co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Tony Elliott challenged Etienne to be a more patient runner after rushing 10 times for 45 yards last week at Florida State. Etienne responded with an incredible day against Louisville, putting up 153 yards on only eight carries in the 77-16 victory. Etienne waited on his blockers to get to their spots and lead the way and averaged more than 19 yards per carry in the blowout. He upped his average on the season to 8.6 yards per carry, which is No. 3 in the nation.

“The second run that he scored on, the touchdown, he showed a lot of patience. Obviously a run scheme where you’ve got to wait on your pullers, you’ve got to wait on it to develop and then you’ve got to hit it fast,” Elliott said. “There were some well-blocked plays in Tallahassee that he outran, so you saw him mature a little bit (Saturday).”

Clemson has an abundance of talent at running back

Speaking of the running game, when Etienne needs a breather Clemson has plenty of options to keep him fresh. Tavien Feaster, Lyn-J Dixon, Adam Choice and Etienne all had big games on Saturday. Feaster took his first carry of the game to the house for a 70-yard touchdown and finished with 101 yards on six carries. Dixon had 116 yards on only four carries, including a 55-yard touchdown. And Choice received only three carries but finished with 43 yards, including a 30-yard run in which he broke several tackles. Clemson’s four scholarship running backs finished with 413 yards on 21 carries for an average of 19.7 yards per run.

“The running backs just have fun,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “You have to give credit to the offensive line, too. We challenged the offense to run the ball (Saturday), and it was just a great day for those guys.”

Clemson can score plenty without Trevor Lawrence at his best

Clemson freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence didn’t play bad against Louisville, the Tigers just didn’t need him. Lawrence passed for 59 yards with two touchdowns and one interception while completing 8 of 12 passes. Still, Clemson put up 77 points and controlled the game from start to finish. Lawrence did not take many chances and he did throw a bad pick into double coverage but it didn’t matter. Lawrence has proven that he can take over a game with his arm and lead the Tigers to a win, but Clemson proved Saturday that it can destroy teams even with Lawrence serving as a game manager.

Louisville is an embarrassingly bad team

The Cardinals appeared lost on offense and defense at times against Clemson. The Tigers had their way with Louisville on both sides of the ball, averaging 11.6 yards per play, compared to 4.5 by Louisville. Clemson scored its second most points ever in an ACC game and its most since 1981 as Louisville continued its downward trend. Two years ago Louisville gave Clemson all it wanted with Lamar Jackson and company. On Saturday Louisville didn’t belong on the same field as the Tigers. Louisville has allowed 51, 66, 56 and now 77 points in games this season.

“Things kind of come and go. I don’t know. I know they’ve got a bunch of good looking players, but they’re young at quarterback,” Swinney said. “Part of it is they have a Heisman guy who is in the NFL now. He was pretty good… And they’re starting over at quarterback. Bobby (Petrino) is a great football coach. I was really concerned coming into this game schematically because they can embarrass you… They’re very well coordinated. They know what they’re doing.”

Clemson can still get better

The Tigers are absolutely destroying teams lately, but there is still room for improvement. Clemson has outscored its opponents 240-36 the past four weeks and still sees plenty of areas where it can improve. Clemson had to punt in the second quarter after being penalized for lining up wrong and getting behind the chains. The Tigers also had two turnovers, and Swinney called timeout to get his defense focused on Louisville’s second drive of the game as the Cardinals were marching right down the field.

“There’s lots. The first half, that first punt, we don’t line up right. Those are the things that can cost you when the scoreboard’s a little tighter,” Swinney said. “It’s just details and being fanatical about that and having a process when you step on the field. There’s lots of things that we can do better.”