Clemson went on the road for the first time this season and opened its ACC schedule by winning 20-17 at Louisville. It was anything but easy as the game went down to the final moments. But the Tigers held on and remained undefeated.
Everyone that witnessed Dabo Swinney’s postgame locker room dance understands that he was clearly pleased with the victory. But after watching the game film, the Clemson head coach will have plenty of teaching moments to talk to the Tigers about when they get back to practice.
Here are five thoughts on Clemson following the Louisville game.
1. The Clemson Defensive Front Seven is Nasty
Coming into the season, much was made of all the players Clemson lost up front on defense, especially after injuries and other departures hit the team in August. There are no worries now. The Tigers are big and bad on the front seven. Defensive end Shaq Lawson has been a monster and linebacker Ben Boulware has been all over the field. This group may be young, but they are also very good.
2. Cordrea Tankersley Played Very Well
The junior from Beech Island, S.C., played quite a bit last season and is now stepping into the starting cornerback spot opposite Mackensie Alexander. That means that he will see a lot of action because opponents won’t be testing No. 2 all that often. Tankersley had a nice game against Louisville with six tackles and a big interception. If Tankersley continues to excel, it will make Clemson's defense even more suffocating.
3. Deshaun Watson Must Be Healthy
Watson had 12 rushing attempts in the game, including three designed runs in a five-play stretch in the fourth quarter. That would be a pretty good indication that the coaching staff has no reservations about the sophomore’s knee. Watson ran with a much greater purpose in this game, which gives future opponents something to think about.
4. The Offensive Line Must Stay Healthy
Center Ryan Norton was out on Thursday night, so there were some injury concerns coming in. When right tackle Joe Gore left the game and freshman Maverick Morris came in, the results were not good. Even without the injuries, the offensive line is the biggest question mark on that side of the ball and Watson did face pressure on a number of occasions. That being said, it wasn’t all bad. Wayne Gallman ran for 139 yards and the line played a big part in his success.
5. Kicker Greg Huegel Looked Solid
Kicker Ammon Lakip is now eligible to re-join the team following his three-game suspension. But Swinney said that it is no given that he will get his job back and Huegel looks like he wants to keep kicking. The guy Swinney said he found kicking a can in a Bi-Lo parking lot was on target from 27 and 36 yards and is 4-for-5 on field goals this season.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.