Kelly Bryant vs. Auburn

Kelly Bryant drops back to pass Saturday night against Auburn.


CLEMSON — In his first two collegiate starts, Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant has been quite impressive — amassing 417 passing yards and a touchdown and 136 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

With Bryant's first two starts coming within the friendly confines of Clemson’s Memorial Stadium, this week will present a new challenge for the first-year starter — his first road game.

"Very excited, first game on the road against a really good opponent in Louisville. The guys are anxious and ready to accept the challenge,” Bryant said. “"Now it's my time to get a little bit of the action and show what I can do.”

If Bryant is going to show what he can do against a Louisville defense that has ranked in the top 20 in total defense in each of the last three seasons, he will first have to correct his mistakes from the Tigers’ last game against Auburn.

"There's some areas where I could improve,” Bryant said. “Where they’re bringing blitzes, and that one time where I was still in the tackle box and I got a flag (for intentional grounding) where I feel like could have changed the protection or something like that, or got us into a better play."

A primetime matchup between two top-15 teams (No. 2 Clemson and No. 14 Louisville), combined with ESPN’s College GameDay being on location, has the media already talking about how Bryant will fair against his counterpart, reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.

For Bryant, it is not about the matchup between the two quarterbacks -- it is about the two teams.

"Of course the media is going to hype it up, but I'm not going to focus more on me vs. him. I'm just going to focus on the offense -- trying to get a win,” Bryant said. "I don't try to think about it like that. I'm just tying to be Kelly B. I try not to get into all of that and feed into it.

“Because that's when the pressure comes in -- just trying to do too much and you get people not playing within the offensive system, not doing their job. So I'm just going to do my job and play my best game."

The good thing for the Clemson offense is it has already faced adversity and come out victorious.

Against No. 13 Auburn, the Clemson offense sputtered and skipped throughout most of the first half before scoring touchdowns on back-to-back drives — one ending the first half and then at the start of the second half — giving the Tigers their total of 14 points. They were was enough to escape with a 14-6 victory.

And what Bryant learned about himself and his teammates in last week’s win should help Clemson the remainder of the season

"It's going to be a four-quarter game. It's a long game. Don't dwell on one play or one series, just keep playing and live with the results,” Bryant said. “Take it one step at a time, one game at a time. (Auburn) was a good opponent, a good situation to be in to find out about myself and also about my team.

“We know we can handle adversity. When things weren’t going well at first, we stuck together.”

With adversity looming this week, as a raucous Louisville crowd will be waiting, Bryant is leaning on the words of wisdom shared with him by his mentor Deshaun Watson — and a belief that the team is capable of winning games scoring a lot or a little.

"I heard from him last week, and it was the same thing, 'Just keep being you, man. Keep playing your game. Do you and keep leading the offense,’” Bryant said. “We're going to have to bring it, just like every week. Like you say, some games may be (low scoring), some games we may have to put up some points. We're just looking to play our best football on Saturday."

Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat.


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