No. 3 Clemson may have another star at quarterback. And with a defense that followed up a dominating performance against Auburn with a stifling of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, the Tigers could be looking at another championship recipe.
Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant threw for 316 yards and as the Tigers beat Jackson’s No. 14 Louisville Cardinals 47-21 on Saturday night. It was Bryant’s third-career start, and as he started to light up the Louisville defense, he got some high praise from the man who led Clemson to a national title in 2016.
He will be better than me! https://t.co/CUyyNcesZO
— Deshaun Watson (@deshaunwatson) September 17, 2017
After Clemson kicker Greg Huegel broke a 7-7 tie with a field goal in the second quarter, the Tigers went on a run. A tied game was quickly 33-7 in favor of Clemson by the end of the third quarter after Bryant scored his second rushing touchdown of the night.
While he scored two of his three touchdowns on the ground, Bryant wasn’t afraid to go up and over the Louisville defense. Clemson’s next possession after Huegel’s second quarter field goal ended on this 79-yard touchdown pass to Ray-Ray McCloud.
“This was a dominant win on the road and these are hard to come by,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.”
The Tigers’ offensive efficiency — sparked by a run game that tallied nearly 300 yards — helped the game’s final score be so lopsided. But the biggest reason might have been the way Clemson’s ferocious defense kept Jackson in check. The Heisman winner finished with 68 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Jackson was better through the air, but his one turnover was costly. The interception he threw to Dorian O’Daniel was returned for a 44-yard touchdown. Jackson finished 21-42 passing for 317 yards and three touchdowns to go along with the pick.
We’ve been saying since the season began that Bryant didn’t have to be spectacular for Clemson to be very good again given the caliber of the Tiger defense. But a Bryant that improves every week means Clemson may be more than very good.
Saturday night was Bryant’s first road start and he conquered it with aplomb. Through three games he’s thrown for 733 yards and completed nearly 69 percent of his passes while accounting for total touchdowns. Watson rightfully established himself as a Clemson legend in his performances over the past two seasons. His successor is showing he may not be too far behind.
– – – – – – –