Malik Cunningham, Louisville set to collide with Clemson

National Sports

Another week, another “freak show” opponent for Clemson.

Just ask Tigers coach Dabo Swinney, whose team will hit the road to face Louisville and its quarterback, Malik Cunningham, on Saturday night.

“It seems like every single week I look up and we’re playing a freak show at quarterback,” Swinney said. “Their quarterback is another great player.”

The Tigers have faced Syracuse’s Garrett Shrader, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett and Florida State’s Jordan Travis over the past three games. Now Cunningham looms.

Cunningham has rushed for 556 yards — the third-best total among ACC quarterbacks — and shares the league lead with 13 rushing touchdowns.

“This guy has played a lot of football and has a great skill set,” Swinney said. “He’s a problem with his legs and is an excellent passer.”

Clemson (5-3, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) has fallen flat offensively this season, and its six-year reign atop the league is in jeopardy. The Tigers, who have lost three regular-season games for the first time since 2014, are coming off a 30-20 victory against Florida State, but they had to score 13 points in the final three minutes to pull out the win.

Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei has struggled, and the Tigers’ offense ranks last in the league in scoring at 21.3 points per game.

The Tigers’ ground game has shown signs of life, however, led by freshman running back Will Shipley. After missing a few games with a broken bone in his leg, Shipley has returned with a vengeance, rushing for 180 yards in his past two games and producing 358 all-purpose yards.

“Offensively they’ve not put up the numbers they’ve been used to putting up,” Louisville coach Scott Satterfield said. “They have a lot of new players on that side of the ball.

“They’re used to winning. This year they have not as well as they have in the past when you think about it because they were so dominant the past seven or eight years. This year they’ve had a lot of close games and they’ve lost a few. … They’re still one of the best defenses in the country.”

Clemson’s defense ranks tops in the ACC and third best nationally, allowing only 15.0 points per game, but Louisville (4-4, 2-3) and its potent offense could pose a challenge. The Cardinals are one of only seven teams nationally to average more than 200 yards on the ground and 245 yards through the air.

“They’re 4-4, but they’ve literally lost two games that were tied in the last minute against Virginia and Wake Forest,” said Swinney, whose teams are 6-0 all-time against Louisville. “They’re another team that’s way better than its record. They’re a 4-4 team, but they’re a handful. Satterfield has those guys playing hard.”

Satterfield is hoping that the Cardinals’ chances may be enhanced by fans packing into Cardinal Stadium.

“We need to have our fans to be here, to be loud, to be all engaged into the game, and it can be — we certainly can be that here,” the coach said. “We’ve been that way here. We have to encourage the fans to come out and support us.”

–Field Level Media

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