Series History & Clemson Notes

1st Meeting between programs.

Clemson’s school colors are Orange & Regalia (Purple).

Frank Howard Field at Memorial Stadium holds 81.500 (2nd largest in ACC) and has a natural grass surface.  The Carolina Panthers played at Memorial Stadium during the 1995 season.

Often called “Death Valley” because a cemetery on a hill overlooked the field prior to the upper deck being constructed.  Head Coach Frank Howard began using the nickname for the facility shortly thereafter.

Howard’s Rock was gifted to the program from Frank Howard’s close friend Samuel C. Jones who found the 2.5 rock while traveling through Death Valley, CA.  After spending a few years as a door stop in Frank Howard’s office, it was placed on a pedestal where Clemson gathers at the top of “The Hill” and rub Howard’s Rock for good luck.  Howard told his players, “Give me 110% or keep your filthy hands off of my rock.”

Clemson actually buses the team from the locker room to “The Hill” before each game.

-Howard’s Rock has actually been vandalized twice…first in 1992 during South Carolina week, and then most recently in June 2013 by Clemson fans from North Carolina.  There is now heightened security for  Howard’s Rock.

-When Clemson fans travel for away games fans stamp an orange Tiger Paw on a $2 Bill as a tradition that started as protest to demonstrate to Georgia Tech the financial impact Clemson fans have when the Yellow Jackets stopped the series.

Clemson Week Podcast

Stat Comparison

Louisville Clemson
Scoring Offense (ppg) 33.3 (53rd) 40.4 (19th)
Total Offense (ypg) 388.3 (88th) 490.8 (27th)
Passing Offense (ypg) 231.8 (67th) 335.8 (10th)
Rushing Offense (ypg) 156.5 (77th) 155.0 (78th)
Scoring Defense (ppg) 12.7 (6th) 22.0 (47th)
Total Defense (ypg) 230.2 (1st) 290.8 (10th)
Passing Defense (ypg) 171.8 (12th) 180.2 (17th)
Rushing Defense (ypg) 58.33 (1st) 110.60 (24th)
Punt Returns (ypr) 6.18 (93rd) 4.67 (113th)
Kickoff Returns (ypr) 25.33 (16th) 16.00 (126th)
Opponent Punt Returns (ypr) 7.8 (69th) 8.43 (73rd)
Opponent Kickoff Returns (ypr) 22.84 (98th) 21.00 (77th)
Punting (ypp) 40.76 (80th) 43.96 (24th)
Field Goal % 77.8% (43rd) 66.7% (65th)
Opponent Field Goal % 90.00% (108th) 100% (114th)
First Downs (per game) 20.7 (80th) 23.2 (46th)
Opponent First Downs (per game) 12.0 (1st) 15.6 (10th)
Penalties (ypg) 54.3 (64th) 39.4 (17th)
Turnover Margin (season) +2 (42nd) +4 (24th)
Time of Possession 33:56.33 (10th) 33:04.40 (18th)
Sacks (per game) 3.5 (15th) 3.2 (18th)
Sacks Allowed (per game) 3.17 (117th) 2.4 (89th)
Tackles for Loss (per game) 7.33 (16th) 8.2 (7th)
Tackles for Loss Allowed (per game) 7.17 (109th) 6.00 (78th)
Interceptions (season) 12 (1st) 4 (70th)
Passes Defended (per game) 6.17 (19th) 4.4 (63rd)
Fumbles Recovered (season) 3 (66th) 4 (43rd)
Fumbles Forced (season) 4 (60th) 4 (60th)
Fumbles Lost (season) 10 (127th) 2 (19th)
Kicks/Punts Blocked (season)
3rd Down Conversions (%) 42.42 (62nd) 48.35% (20th)
Opponent 3rd Down Conversions (%) 23.08% (1st) 29.33% (13th)
4th Down Conversions (%) 76.92% (17th) 50.00% (57th)
Opponent 4th Down Conversions (%) 16.67% (5th) 66.67% (93rd)
Red Zone Conversions (%) 92.59% (18th) 75.00% (100th)
Opponent Red Zone Conversions (%) 68.75% (12th) 66.67% (10th)
RedZone TD Conversions (%) 74.07% (19th) 54.17% (91st)
Opponent Red Zone TD Conversions (%) 31.25% (7th) 58.33% (60th)
Kickoffs (ypk) 63.11 (27th) 59.76 (95th)
Plays 451 (6 games) 405 (5 games)
Yards Per Play 5.17 (100th) 6.06 (50th)

Louisville Offense vs. Clemson Defense

The Cardinal Offense hasn’t been as explosive as fans had hoped to start the Bobby Petrino era.  The coaches have tinkered with a lot of different line-ups and other changes have been forced by injury.

Louisville is expected to be at full strength on offense for the 1st time in the 2014 season.  Wide Receiver DeVante Parker missed 6 games, Running Back Michael Dyer missed 3, and Quarterback Will Gardner has missed the last 2.  DeVante Parker could change the offense completely with his ability to demand attention, but the real question is:  Who starts at Quarterback?

On one hand, Reggie Bonnafon has made tremendous strides starting the last two games…..on the other Will Gardner has much more extensive work with DeVante Parker, who could be the Cards’ primary weapon.  Will Gardner would be coming back from an injury from the Florida International game on 9/20, and has had trouble hanging on to the football while Bonnafon is more elusive in the pocket and has shown the ability to create more time…….a true dilemma.

Against Clemson, ball security at the Quarterback position is paramount. While the Tigers are a mid-level team at creating turnovers they are extremely skilled at making plays in the backfield AND hitting the Quarterback.  Clemson’s 3.2 sacks per game and 8.2 tackles for loss allowed per game does not paint a good picture against the Cards who allow 3.17 sacks and 7.17 TFLs per game.  It should be expected that Clemson will get into the Louisville backfield.  What needs to change are the Cardinal fumbles, particularly at the Quarterback position.  If the Cards can take the blows while maintaining composure AND possession when protection breaks down then that is a 1000% better than the 10 fumbles (most on the wrong end of the field) that UofL has endured through the 1st six games of the year.

The main source of pressure is of course DE Vic Beasley who has 7 sacks on the season and 8 TFLs.  With the Cardinals flipping their line from weakside the strongside Clemson may be able to tailor their defense to really play to Beasley’s advantages.  But Clemson’s defense really is a group effort and Head Coach Dabo Swinney called his unit at his Tuesday Press Conference “The most complete unit we’ve had”.

The Tigers do an excellent job both in the air and on the ground of preventing yardage, but the Tigers do allow more points (22.0) than you might expect given the 290.8 yards per game that Clemson allows.  Perhaps that is because Clemson really is just average at creating turnovers……..Louisville could do itself a huge favor by hanging onto the football.

Louisville is going to do what it can to establish the run.  Brandon Radcliff has had the hot hand, but he won’t be the only back getting work.  I’d expect that Bobby Petrino is going to mix in several backs early in the game to try and figure out which style might be the most effective against Clemson.  And that’s just the thing, Petrino has 5 backs that are all very different.  Lately Radcliff has run inspired but Dominique Brown was incredible versus Miami.  Michael Dyer has yet to be the same player that he was at Auburn and Saturday will be his 3rd game back from the deep thigh contusion that sidelined him for the start of the season.  Michael could be sitting on a big game.

Clemson is going to be bringing pressure similar at a similar rate as Virginia did a few weeks ago.  Clemson however, runs a 4-3 style defense but will likely be in nickel for most downs against the Cards. Louisville is going to have to hit some quick passes to keep this pressure at bay so being able to avoid batted balls and hit Eli Rogers and Gerald Christian in the slot and at tight end will be a big deal. Also, Louisville QBs have really not done a very good job of hitting the pass to the running back.   This year passes in the flat have always felt like an adventure.  Improving this aspect could be at least worth a 1st down per game……Clemson’s defense is fast and they cover a lot of ground, but Louisville needs to make sure that they make Clemson cover all of it.

On the outside James Quick should finally get a break and not have to match-up against teams’ #1 Cornerback now that DeVante Parker is expected to return.  Some believe that Parker will be used as a decoy, I’m not buying that.  DeVante is well within his recovery window and has been chomping at the bit to get back on the field.  Louisville’s 1st practice saw some work for Parker, but the staff is unlikely to truly push DeVante prior to gameday so as to avoid any set backs.  Clemson is an excellent pass defense team and they have several big bodies that prevent a lot of completions.  If the Cards can get some time in the pocket they may be able to find some space for a deep ball or two but more than likely Louisville is going to have to work the ball down the field and hope for yards after the catch.

Clemson has the advantage here, but Card fans should be excited to see this offense finally healthy with all of its weapons.

Total Offense Clemson Allowed vs. Deviation from Avg. % Gained of Avg
Georgia 461.6 459 -2.6 99.44%
Florida State 458.6 317 -141.6 69.12%
North Carolina 415.7 478 62.3 114.99%
NC State 447.3 156 -291.3 34.88%

Louisville Defense vs. Clemson Offense

The Louisville Defense is the #1 unit in the country and allows just 12.7 points per game.  The Cards have yet to allow 300 yards of offense in a single game and the most thus far to FCS Murray State who gained most of its 292 yards after Louisville was up by 5 touchdowns. In its only loss the Cardinal Defense allowed 285 yards to Virginia, while the Cavaliers only had to travel 42 yards to score 16 of 25 points after 4 Louisville turnovers.

Clemson’s offense is far and away better than anything the Cards have faced so far this season.  But the same is true for Clemson and the Louisville Defense. The Tigers’ opening season loss to Georgia can’t be factored here as Quarterback Deshaun Watson saw limited action.  Since Watson’s role has been elevated Clemson’s offensive efficiency exceeds the production allowed of opposing defensive averages by 15 percentage points per game.  The Cards allow an average of 230 yards per game meaning that we should expect Clemson to gain 265 yards against the Cards………but that’s just math.

Deshaun Watson is real. The 6’3, 190 lbs freshman Quarterback is calm, athletic, and accurate.  Through 5 games (4 really) Watson has been good……really good.  To compare, Deshaun Watson’s 1st 106 college passes are as follows:  73-106 (68.9%), 1181 Yards, 12 Touchdowns and 1 Interception.  Teddy Bridgewater’s 1st 106 passes:  67-106 (63.2%), 693 yards, 4 Touchdowns, and 5 Interceptions.

Clemson, however, is coming into Saturday’s game with a lot of injuries and depth issues.  The Tigers are searching for answers at Center and recently moved a defensive lineman over to the offensive line for an extra body.  But the starting group that Clemson will bring into Saturday’s game is more than adequate to build on Watson’s recent performance.

The Tigers have scored 91 points the past 2 weeks against North Carolina and NC State. NC State’s Defense ranks 68th in the nation and the Tar Heels are 120th…..that’s a long way from Louisville’s #1 spot.  Florida State’s Defense ranks #36 and allows 347.8 yards per game, Clemson piled up 407 yards but scored just 17 points in overtime. Clemson had 14 drives against the Seminoles and just 6 drives gained more than 20 yards, 9 of those were non-scoring drives of 5 plays or less.

Clemson’s offensive line is a little beat up, Louisville Defensive front is one of the best I’ve seen this year (Clemson’s is another).  Clemson has given up a great deal of sacks and tackles for loss and I expect that the Cards will do a tremendous job on Saturday of disrupting Clemson behind the line of scrimmage and the Tigers have a not so impressive rushing attack.

One thing Clemson could definitely take advantage of is Deshaun Watson’s running ability when the Cards over-pursue and allow running lane.  Louisville has given up a few big plays this season when a QB eluded the rush and found open field.  Watson has 137 yards rushing (5 rushes over 10 yards) and 3 touchdowns.

Louisville’s secondary could get a boost with the return of Jermaine Reve.  It’s been rumored that Terell Floyd is moving to cornerback for the Clemson game with Reve’s return and Trumaine Washington likely to miss a game with a minor injury.   Floyd has been fantastic at the nickel position, but the defense really could notch up with Terell at corner if Reve is fully back to plug into the nickel spot.  The Cards could use the size against a big receiver like Mike Williams (6’4, 210).  But unlike Virginia, Clemson’s wide receivers don’t have as much size across the board but they are MUCH faster.

Charles Gaines is going to get tested in this game.  Gerod Holliman and James Sample will have to come up and make sure tackles so as to not allow a great deal of yards after the catch.  But there will be plays to make.  Louisville’s pressure should create a few opportunities for some turnovers, but more than anything the Cards need to focus on getting off the field on 3rd down.

Louisville has an edge here, but Clemson is going to move the ball some.  The Cards can’t play overly aggressive and have 90% lights out but 10% huge plays.  That will get the Cards beat.  Todd Grantham’s young Georgia Defense last season allowed 38 points and 467 yards in a 3 point loss and is very familiar with what Dabo Swinney and Chad Morris attempt to do on offense.  Louisville has the players and the scheme to cause problems and slow this offense down….the question is: will it be enough?

Total Defense Clemson Gained vs. Deviation from Avg. % Gained of Avg Allowed
Georgia 335 291 -44 86.87%
Florida State 347.8 407 59.2 117.02%
North Carolina 505.8 528 22.2 104.39%
NC State 396.2 493 96.8 124.43%

My Prediction

In my opinion Clemson outplayed defending champions Florida State on their home field.  Granted Jameis Winston didn’t play, but Deshaun Watsona and the Clemson Defense were outstanding for most of the game.  The Tigers will be playing their 3rd consecutive game at home, Louisville is playing its 4th road game in 5 games on Saturday.

The Cards also have a great number of questions in regards to finding solutions for its offense and while DeVante Parker will help, his conditioning and readiness is not yet known.  Also whether or not the starting QB is Will Gardner or Reggie Bonnafon neither has a great deal of experience and also neither has played in an environment like Death Valley.

Bobby Petrino likes his team’s attitude while preparing for Clemson and it is just a matter of time before Petrino gets his offense to where he wants it.  I’m sure progress has been made, but we have to go with what we have seen thus far.

I expect points to be at a premium in this game.  I do think the Cardinal Defense will showcase on Saturday, but I also think Clemson’s defense is a very bad match-up for the Cards as well.  In the end the Tigers have the better offense and we haven’t seen Louisville maintain its composure in this type of atmosphere.

Clemson edges the Cards in this one: 21-17 Tigers. 

(Editors Note: I haven’t picked Louisville’s opponent to win in Football since Louisville vs. WVU 11-5-2011…the Cards won 38-35.  Also Louisville’s record is 30-6 since that game.)

Attending, Listening, Watching

Time: 3:30 EST

Address for GPS:

1 Avenue of Champions
Clemson, SC 29634

-Tickets to the Game in Clemson, SC are available via Clemson’s Website.   StubHub also has some available as well here.

-Friday’s Game in Clemson is Family Day for the Tigers and is also Clemson’s Breast Cancer Awareness Game.

-Over the Radio Cardinal fans can listen to Paul Rogers, Craig Swabek, and Doug Ormay on the Learfield Sports Network (Locally on 790 AM) or via the TuneIn App.

-In South Carolina fans can listen to Don Munson, Rodney Williams, and Patrick Sapp on the Clemson Radio Network.  In Clemson the game will be broadcast on 105.5 FM.

-The Game will be broadcast on ESPN Radio by Bill Rosinski, David Norrie, and Joe Schad.

-Sirius Radio Channels 119 & 108, XM Channels 193 & 203.

-On Television Clemson vs. Louisville will be broadcast on ESPNU with Anish Shroff, Kelly Stouffer, and Cara Capuano.

Pre-Game Videos

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@UofLSheriff50. Louisville native, University of Louisville Business School Grad c/o 2004. Co-Founder of

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