LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Well, at least it wasn't a 61-point margin.
However, although Louisville avoided a similar fate to last season's 77-16 beatdown, No. 3 Clemson (7-0, 5-0) showed the Cardinals (4-3, 2-2) how big the gap is between the two teams before UofL can be competitive for 60 minutes against the Atlantic Coast Conference's bullies with another dominating performance.
Clemson's 45-10 victory in Cardinal Stadium on Saturday in front of 51,015 fans was their 22nd in a row and boosted their record to 6-0 against UofL. The Tigers have now outscored the Cards 169-47 in the last three meetings.
"We learned we have a long way to go," said UofL quarterback Evan Conley, whose team was a 24-point underdog.
All in all, it was a predictable outcome. UofL coach Scott Satterfield suggested during the week that the Tigers had better players at every position, and it certainly appeared that way.
"They're more talented than us," Satterfield said afterwards. "Their talent took over the game."
Only back-to-back interceptions on the Louisville goal line -- one each by Jack Fagot and Russ Yeast -- in the first quarter kept the game from getting out of hand early and the margin from being much worse.
Clemson more than doubled UofL's yardage for the game, outgaining them 551-263 as the visitors' top-5 defense shut down an offense that was averaging nearly 500 yards per game. The Tigers recorded six sacks, had two interceptions and recovered a fumble while holding the Cards to an average gain of just four yards per play, half of Clemson's average.
Running back Javier Hawkins provided UofL with its only offensive push, gaining 129 yards on 26 carries and scoring his team's only touchdown on a three-yard run with 5:10 remaining in the game. Seventy-five yards of the Cards' total came on that final drive.
Quarterbacks Conley and Micale Cunningham struggled, completing only 8-of-22 passes for 107 yards. Cunningham started and Conley relieved him with 10 minutes left in the first half, directing a scoring drive of 52 yards that culminated in a 28-yard field goal by Blanton Creque.
"In the first half we had opportunities," Satterfield said. "We just didn't capitalize; we didn't do anything in the passing game. We just didn't make enough plays. I don't think either one of our quarterbacks played great today. I think probably both of them played some of the worst ball they've played this year. But I give Clemson a lot of credit for that. They do the most I've seen a defense do. "
Meanwhile, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence settled down after his rocky start and wound up throwing for three touchdowns while completing 20-of-29 passes for 233 yards. Running back Travis Etienne complemented that passing attack with 192 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown on just 14 carries.
"He's talented enough and powerful enough to break through tackles, then once he gets out there he's gone," Satterfield said. "He's got unique ability with the size and speed to be able to take it all the way to the house. He's a great back. He'll be one of the top backs taken (in the NFL draft) whenever he comes out."
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney praised the Cards' effort.
"They really played us tough," he said. "We knew this was a game we were going to have to eventually knock them out because they're not going to give up."
And Satterfield was left to ponder a future that looks promising once he has time to recruit the caliber of players he'll need to compete with the Clemsons of the world.
"Over a period of time we'll be able to put a product on the field that compares to Clemson," he said. "They are the standard in the ACC right now."
And they looked every bit of it Saturday.
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.