No. 12 Clemson wins 39th straight at home 31-16 over Louisville

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CLEMSON, S.C. – DJ Uiagalelei had plenty of his own accomplishments to feel great about in No. 12 Clemson’s 31-16 win over Louisville. Instead, the Tigers’ starting quarterback gushed about teammate Will Shipley‘s picture-perfect hurdle over Cardinals safety M.J. Griffin on a touchdown run.

“Man, that hurdle was crazy,” said Uiagalelei, a huge smile on his face. “When you think about it, that guy was standing straight up.”

Shipley, the Tigers’ tailback, put up a signature play in the third quarter Saturday with a straight-ahead, 25-yard burst as he hurdled Louisville safety Griffin to reach the end zone.

And after Shipley landed, he moved between two other defenders to finish off the scoring run that put the Tigers ahead 24-10 and sent them on the way to a 39th straight home win.

“It just shows he’s Superman,” Clemson offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter said. “He can fly over people.”

The effort from all the Tigers (9-1, 7-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) – superhuman or not – was a welcome result after the team’s first loss of the season, 35-14, at No. 20 Notre Dame.

Uiagalelei, who ran for a score and threw for a second, said the team’s mindset was to return to what they had done in opening 8-0.

“We definitely wanted to play great tonight, we wanted to dominate,” Uiagalelei said. “We wanted to get back on track to how we play offense.”

The Tigers (9-1, 7-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) had wrapped up the ACC Atlantic Division – and its spot in the league title game next month – a week ago. Now, they’ll claim the berth as solo division champs.

Clemson improved to improve to 8-0 all-time over Louisville (6-4, 3-4). The Cardinals, who came in with a four-game win streak, played the second half without standout quarterback Malik Cunningham, who was hurt on the last play of the second quarter.

Uiagalelei completed 19 of 27 throws for 185 yards. Phil Mafah ran for 106 yards and Shipley 97 as the Tigers finished with 248 yards on the ground.

Clemson needed a fast start and got it. Uiagalelei led a 12-play, 75-yard scoring march on the opening drive that he ended with a nifty 11-yard run as the Tigers built a 10-0 lead.

Uiagalelei’s 4-yard pass to freshman Antonio Williams with 32 seconds left before the half sent Clemson into the break up 17-7.

Williams had a career best 10 catches for 83 yards.

Louisville was held to 160 yards in the first half – and 61 came in the final half minute as the Cardinals moved to the Clemson 14 before the clock ran out.

Cunningham looked like he had the speed and a path to the end zone on the half’s final play, but he stumbled cutting across the field and fell. Trainers came out as the team headed to the locker room and Cunningham spent a few minutes on the field before joining them.

Cunningham did not return due to a right shoulder injury as Brock Domann took over at quarterback. Louisville coach Scott Satterfield said Cunningham was day-to-day heading into next week’s game against No. 17 North Carolina State, and he’ll know more as the week goes on.

“There’s a lot of positive to take from this game,” Satterfield said. “We go back to our place next week, Senior Day, we’ve got to regroup.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Louisville: The Cardinals four straight wins to gain bowl eligibility was a solid step for the program. However, if Cunningham is significantly hurt, it could dent the positive vibes around a team that bounced back from an 0-3 ACC start.

Clemson: The Tigers will feel better about themselves after their decisive win over Louisville. But the offense still lost three fumbles (two by Shipley) and the defense was hit for several big plays that kept Louisville in this one much longer than necessary.

MISSING TIGERS

Clemson played without leading tackler in linebacker Trenton Simpson, starting offensive lineman Walker Parks and punt returner Will Taylor. All were announced out shortly before the kickoff. Starting defensive end Xavier Thomas re-injured the foot that kept him out of the first five games and he won’t return this season.

UP NEXT

Louisville plays its final regular-season home game vs. No. 17 North Carolina State on Saturday.

Clemson closes its ACC regular season against Miami on Saturday.

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.