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    Louisville falls to Clemson despite incredible defense.
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    When the University of Louisville football Cardinals traveled to Death Valley to take on the Clemson Tigers, they took their number one rated defense into the noisiest crowd they’ve faced so far in their young ACC tenure. It turned into their second ACC loss, 23-17.

    The media made a big deal about Bobby Petrino’s comments about fan noise. He said was that the Carrier Dome was loud last week. But he also said he didn’t think it could get much louder than that. The commentators played that up by saying it made the crowd mad. Did it? Honestly, most of them probably didn’t even know what was said but the ESPNU needed a bad guy and Petrino was elected.

    Will Gardner continued his knee injury recovery so Reggie Bonnafon got the start at quarterback. DeVante Parker also continued to rehab his foot injury. There were high hopes they could get him on the field as the top vertical threat, but that fell to James Quick once again.

    There were questions about both offensive lines, especially considering both teams play great defense. It would take a while to judge Clemon’s though because they ran a Louisville three-and-out punt all the way to the house with Adam Humphries scoring six after 72 yards. The Death Valley crowd erupted.

    Bonnafon put the ball on target, but receivers couldn’t seem to bring it in, including Quick who dropped a long bomb that would have gotten the Cards pumped up. It led to another three and out and more noise from Memorial Stadium (the real name of the stadium).

    Clemson started a true freshman at quarterback themselves in Deshaun Watson. He started with as much success as Bonnafon who went 0-5 passing in his first two series. Watson only completed one pass for zero yards on his first two.

    The defensive pressure on Watson led to a Keith Kelsey interception. Give the assist to Lorenzo Mauldin as he had the Clemson QB by the ankle at the time of the throw. It put Louisville in their first decent field position. The Cards could only muster 2 yards of offense and had to settle for the John Wallace 42 yard field goal.

    Watson had to leave the game with a broken finger on a QB keeper and fifth year senior Cole Stoudt came in. He was the starter in the first game of the season. The Louisville defense welcomed him with a near interception and a sack. The crowd noise eased noticeably.

    After a shanked Tigers punt, Dominique Brown walked into the end zone to give Louisville their first lead at 10-7 at the beginning of the second quarter giving the Cardinal faithful flashbacks of the way they expected him to play coming into the season.

    The Death Valley noise meter recovered when Quick muffed a punt that the Tigers recovered. It didn’t result in points but when the ball came back to the Cards they were pinned deep.

    A few plays later Bonnafon fumbled at the three and Grady Jarrett scooped and scored to give the lead back to Clemson. That’s 14 points on 8 yards of offense. The Tigers took a 14-10 lead into the break. They should have had more, but Stoudt mismanaged the clock in disastrous fashion with time running out.

    In the third quarter both anemic offense continued their yardage anemia. Worse, Louisville went backward on a huge sack. That was enough for the coaching staff to make a decision.

    In an attempt to inject some adrenaline into his team, Coach Petrino pulled Bonnafon in favor of Will Gardner. The offensive line didn’t help Gardner either, but he was able to convert the first third down of the game with 6:02 left in the third quarter. A play later, he hit Eli Rogers in the end zone with a crisp TD pass to tie the score.

    The spark didn’t live long as the offense went back to three-and-out mode. Ryan Johnson punted well, including a long of 57 yards, but surely he didn’t expect to kick as much as he did.

    Defensively, the Cards kept the pressure on. On a drive, Mauldin sacked Stoudt. The very next play saw James Burgess create his own takeaway with an interception. It put the ball back in the hands of Gardner and his false-starting offensive line. Those penalties created a 4th down try that ended up short.

    Toward the end of the fourth quarter, fatigue started to wear on the Cardinal defenders. They spent more time on the field than in any other game this season. That’s another indictment of the impotent offense. And still they left it all on the field. They held Clemson without an offensive touchdown but they couldn’t win it all by themselves.

    So that’s why Quick took a catch 73 yards to the red zone with 1:08 to go. After getting stuffed at the 2, the Cards had to spike the ball and make the game hinge on a 4th and goal. The final pass was incomplete and the loss was complete.

    Photo by: Max Sharp/Louisville.com

    Tim Girton's picture

    About Tim Girton

    Tim Girton writes about University of Louisville sports here at Louisville.com and his love for Louisville continues on his photoblog, called This Is Louisville.

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