Deshaun Watson threw for five touchdowns, including two in the final seven minutes, as No. 5 Clemson rallied for a 42-36 victory over No. 3 Louisville after the Tigers lost an 18-point lead to Lamar Jackson and the high-flying Cardinals on Saturday night.
The Tigers (5-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) looked like they had this one wrapped up before halftime, scoring four TDs in the second quarter to lead 28-10 at the break. Then "Action" Jackson got moving and the Cardinals (4-1, 2-1) scored on five consecutive possessions to take a 36-28 lead with 7:50 left.
Artavis Scott began Clemson's comeback with a 77-yard kickoff return and Watson found Mike Williams for a 20-yard scoring pass two plays later. Clemson forced Louisville to punt for the only time in the second half and Watson guided the game-winning drive, ending on a 31-yard TD catch by Jordan Leggett.
Jackson had one last surge, leading Louisville to Clemson's nine-yard line. But James Quick was knocked out of bounds by safety Van Smith on fourth down with 33 seconds left to seal the win.
"We came up a yard short," Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino said.
Watson had his errors — a career-high three interceptions and a fumble — but in the end found a way to succeed with 306 yards on 20-of-31 passing.
"It just shows even with the hiccups how good we are and how good we can be," Watson said. "We found a way how to handle adversity."
The Tigers have won 19 straight games at home, a streak that began after they lost their last top-five showdown — when No. 5 Florida State defeated No. 3 Clemson, 51-14, in 2013. In that one, Jameis Winston led a Seminoles rout.
Clemson made sure Jackson would not pull off another one.