Red hot Louisville carries momentum into No. 12 Clemson
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Louisville is loaded with confidence from its four-game win streak behind talented quarterback Malik Cunningham.
And then there’s Clemson, which after a promising start is suddenly filled with questions about its once dominant defense and an offense struggling to put up points.
The 12th-ranked Tigers (8-1, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) hope they, and passer DJ Uiagalelei, find their way back to their early season form when they face Louisville (6-3, 3-3) on Saturday.
Clemson is coming off a demoralizing, 35-14 loss at Notre Dame where there were few positive. The Fighting Irish scored off a blocked punt, ran in a 96-yard pick six and used a forceful run game to roll over Clemson’s normally solid defense.
“We made it to week 10 without a loss and we had a bad day,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “Nobody wins every game forever. You regroup, you have the right perspective because if you don’t so much gets into kids’ heads.”
Swinney and his staff vowed to get the players’ minds back on winning against a Cardinals’ team on roll.
Cunningham, the dynamic quarterback compared to Louisville’s Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, has thrown for 510 yards the past three games with five touchdowns and an interception. He and the Cardinals are eager to end the program’s 0-7 run against Clemson.
Louisville coach Scott Satterfield knows that’s far easier imagined than accomplished.
“They have a 38-game home winning streak, we know that,” Satterfield said. “It’s obviously a tough place to go play and try to get a win. We’ll have to prepare for that, particularly on offense.”
Satterfield was not concerned about Cunningham hurting his hand in a 34-10 win.
Clemson’s defense knows it’s in for a challenge at slowing Cunningham. “You give him a little bit of daylight, he can take it to the crib,” Clemson defensive tackle Tyler Davis said. “It’s definitely going to be a great matchup.”
Starter DJ Uiagalelei has been replaced by freshman backup Cade Klubnik the past two games after a stellar start to the season. Klubnik rallied the Tigers from 11 points down to beat Syracuse 27-21 on Oct. 22. But Klubnik had an interception that led to a Notre Dame touchdown last week. Uiagalelei is expected to start, but Swinney has said if he can’t perk up his play “someone else” must go in.
ONE MORE SCORE
Cunningham needs one more touchdown to become Louisville’s career leader in TDs accounted for. He’s tied with Lamar Jackson at 119, including 70 passing after tossing three TD passes last week. The senior is tied for 15th in FBS with 11 TDs rushing.
OUT FOR TIGERS
Clemson goes into this one missing two key performers, one each on offense or defense. The Tigers will be without receiver Beaux Collins, who leads the team with five touchdown catches. Collins suffered a shoulder injury in the loss at Notre Dame. Defensive end Xavier Thomas, who missed the season’s first five games, is out for the year after re-injuring a foot.
GROUND IT OUT
Louisville ranks 25th nationally in rushing at 201.7 yards per game. Last week marked its third-highest output this season, led by Tiyon Evans’ 126 yards on 10 carries including a 71-yard TD. Jawhar Jordan added 17 carries for 117 yards and gave the Cardinals their first pair of 100-yard rushers since Sept. 2, 2012 against Kentucky. Evans’ 495 yards rushing would rank seventh in the ACC, but hasn’t reached the 75% participation threshold for inclusion.
Louisville won without a sack or takeaway for the first time since September 2002 but still leads the ACC with 33 sacks. That total is tied for second nationally. Linebacker YaYa Diaby (6.5) leads four Cardinals among the top 20 in the conference. They’ll face a Clemson squad that allows just two per contest.