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A look back at the previous Lamar Jackson vs. Deshaun Watson matchup — in college

A look back at the previous Lamar Jackson vs. Deshaun Watson matchup — in college

Lamar Jackson still doesn’t want to talk about that extra yard Louisville never got in 2016. 

“Man, it is what it is,” Jackson said, with a bit of a grin. “It happened.”

In October 2016, Jackson took his No. 5 Louisville squad into Death Valley to face Deshaun Watson and the No. 3 Clemson Tigers. The result was a game that had impacts for both of their football careers still felt today. 

It was one of the best college games of the season, a game that featured eight total touchdowns between Watson and Jackson, 57 first downs, 1,075 yards of total offense — including one crucial yard left on the field in a 42-36 Clemson win.

And on the eve of a rematch between two of the best college quarterbacks of the decade, here’s a look back at one of the most entertaining football games in recent memory, told by three players who came up a yard short.

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Josh Harvey-Clemons knew the Cardinals had a shot to march into Death Valley and escape with a win. They had Lamar Jackson. 

In Jackson’s freshman year, the defense routinely complained to coach Bobby Petrino that Jackson needed different rules in practice, as quarterbacks aren’t to be touched. So one day, Petrino made Jackson live, like everyone else.

“He probably had three touchdowns that day,” said Geron Christian, a tackle for the Redskins and former Louisville player.

A year later, the Cardinals went into Memorial Stadium at Clemson with their sophomore quarterback, ready to knock off college football's second-place team a year prior. 

“That game was crazy, that was my only time playing at Clemson,” Christian said. “That fanbase and everything was crazy. I mean, shoot, it was a great game.”

On the opposite sideline, however, stood perhaps the best player in college football in Watson. He finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting a year prior, a year in which he combined for 5,214 yards. 

Clemson, a year after a five-point defeat to Alabama in the National Championship Game, had its sights set on winning the national title. And to many, it appeared they had the best quarterback in the country.

Louisville, however, remained confident. It had its own offensive weapon in Jackson. The venue didn’t faze them.

“That was a great game,” Harvey-Clemons, now a linebacker for the Redskins, said. “Being there, in Death Valley at a night game, is one of the loudest stadiums I’ve played in.”

And after a scoreless first quarter, things exploded.

Louisville got on the board first and took a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter. The game took a turn, however, led by Watson. 

Clemson outscored Louisville 28-3 the rest of the half and led 28-10 at halftime. Watson threw touchdown passes of 33, 37 and five yards to put Clemson ahead for what looked to be for good.

“He was just dicing us down the field,” Jackson said. “Our defense did great, don't get me wrong. Our defense played a great game, but he was just doing Deshaun Watson things.”

In the second half, however, Louisville jumped on Clemson and hung 26 unanswered points on the board. Jackson had two rushing touchdowns and a passing touchdown to put Louisville ahead. 

Watson came right back in the fourth quarter with two scoring drives of his own and threw touchdown passes of 20 and 31 yards to give the Tigers a six-point lead late in the game. He finished the night 20-of-31 passing for 306 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. He also had 91 yards rushing on 14 carries.

But the game wasn’t over just yet. Jackson and the Cardinals had a chance, down six, to steal a game in Death Valley and put them on the fast track to the College Football Playoff. 

Faced with 4th and 12 at the Clemson 14-yard line, with 39 seconds left to play, Jackson fired a strike to wide receiver James Quick who caught the pass and raced toward the sideline. 

Quick thought he beat Clemson defender Marcus Edmond to the spot. Instead, he wound up a yard short.

“...we went out of bounds like right before...we thought we had the first down and went out of bounds right on the goal line,” Harvey-Clemons recalled.

Clemson took over on downs and held on for a 42-36 win. It later went on to a 14-1 season and beat Alabama to win the National Championship Game. 

Louisville finished 9-4 and Jackson won the Heisman that season — the youngest player to ever win the Heisman Trophy. He totaled 4,928 yards and 51 touchdowns. 

Still, it’s hard not to think about how both that season, and Jackson and Watson’s careers, could be different if Louisville had gotten that extra yard.

“We have to move on from that,” Jackson said this week. “I can't dwell on it. It is what it is.”

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Three years later, Jackson and Watson are leading their teams with title-aspirations into a matchup against one another, as the two are in contention for the league’s highest individual award. 

Jackson, the 32nd overall pick in 2018 NFL Draft, and Watson, the 12th pick in 2017, each had to face their fair share of doubters in the NFL. 

To those who played in that game, though, it’s not surprising the level of success they’re having at the NFL level. 15 players on that Clemson roster in 2016 were drafted in the NFL and six from Louisville were. 

Of all the draft picks, both Harvey-Clemons and Christian are convinced of who was the best player on the field the first time Watson and Jackson, biases inconsequential.

“You know who I’m gonna go with,” Harvey-Clemons said with a chuckle. “Deshaun is a great quarterback though, man. He’s doing great things this year too.”

The new era of NFL quarterbacks have arrived, and two of the best examples will square off on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

“He’s surprising a lot of people, but I was telling these guys the other day that everything he’s doing, is the same thing he’s been doing,” Harvey-Clemons said. “It’s not surprising me, because I know what type of athlete he is, and what type of athlete he’s been since he got to college.”

The Ravens, at 7-2, and the Texans, at 6-3, have other matchups that will make Sunday intriguing. But just like that night in Death Valley, the story will be the quarterbacks.

“Both of those guys are great quarterbacks,” Harvey-Clemons said. “And seeing them play this week is going to be a show, just like it was back in college.”

JP Finlay contributed to this story.

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Ravens looking for playoff berth, AFC North title in trip to Buffalo

Ravens looking for playoff berth, AFC North title in trip to Buffalo

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens haven’t had to stress too much over the last month or so of football.

Aside from a last-second win over the 49ers, the Ravens have climbed to the top of the AFC standings, and with four games to play, control their destiny for home-field advantage. 

But while the Bills aren’t in first place in their division, Sunday’s game at New Era Field could be one that has a large impact on the AFC standings. 

“We know the goal is to win the game, and what follows with that is what follows with that,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I did mention to the team, I said, ‘Where are we? We’re nowhere until we get there. And when we get there, we’ll be there. And we’ll take it from there.’ How’s that? That’s actually pretty good.

At 10-2, the Ravens are in pole position headed to the final quarter of the season. But the slope that they sit atop of is quite slippery. 

A loss to the 9-3 Bills would tie the two teams in the standings, with the Bills then owning the tiebreaker with just three games to play.

In that scenario, the AFC East champion Bills would have the inside track to home-field advantage in the playoffs over the Ravens. 

“We're not looking at everything like, ‘Oh my gosh, we're unstoppable,’ or anything like that,” Josh Bynes said. “Because it's any given Sunday, and we know how this league works. Any team can come out and beat you at any given moment. So, all we're focused on right now is just winning one game at a time and just taking it day by day and game by game.”

The Bills offense has took a turn for the better in recent weeks, as quarterback Josh Allen has thrown just one interception since Week 5. But the true strength of the Bills is their defense, which has kept them in games all season long. 

It’s yet another top defense that the Ravens will have to go through on their stretch of top defenses. 

“I think they're very talented,” Orlando Brown Jr. said. “I think they play very hard, and they've got a great scheme and a ton of great players in great positions. Their defensive backs are playing really well. They have a great group of front seven, again. It seems like we can't get a break, but it's all good.”

Buffalo’s defense ranks third in yards-allowed-per game (300) and third in pass yards allowed (195.8).

Baltimore is set to catch a break before the game even starts, as the weather in Buffalo is predicted to be mild — for New York. The projected high temperature is 45 degrees, and no snow is in the forecast.

“I don’t really care about cold games,” Lamar Jackson said. “I played at Louisville, so there were a lot of cold games there. And last year, I played here, so it is what it is. But I’d rather it not be raining and cold. That doesn’t mix. Cold and snow, I’ve never been in that. So, I’ll find out what it’s like, and I have to play ball.”

Jackson, against another of the league’s top defensive units, will look to add an exclamation point to his MVP resume. 

Should he do that and the Ravens win, they’ll clinch a playoff berth. And paired with a win over the Bills and a Steelers loss, they’ll have back-to-back AFC North titles. 

“It's going to be a good test,” Michael Pierce said. “I think it'll be another playoff-type atmosphere there on the road. They're 9-3. Josh Allen is playing really well, and we know the kind of (running) back Frank Gore is. And (Devin) Singletary is pretty smooth, too, so yes, they have a good team. It'll be a good game.” 

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Ravens at Bills Week 14: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Ravens at Bills Week 14: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

The Baltimore Ravens (10-2) are heading north to take on the Buffalo Bills (9-3) in a Week 14 AFC Showdown that will likely have the energy of a playoff game.

The Ravens are coming off a buzzer-beater 20-17 win against the San Francisco 49ers that pushed their win streak to a franchise-record eight games. Leading the way for the Ravens is Lamar Jackson, who has cemented his MVP candidacy during a season in which he has taken the league by storm.

The Bills are coming off three wins of their own, most recently a 26-15 stomping of the Dallas Cowboys. Despite the impressive 9-3 record, the Bills' only win against a .500 or better team came on Thanksgiving Day against the then 6-5 Cowboys.

Here's what you should know about the game:

RAVENS at BILLS WEEK 14:

What: Week 14 of the NFL regular season

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Buffalo Bills

Where: New Era Field, Orchard Park, NY

When: Sunday, Dec. 8, at 1:00 p.m.

TV Channel: CBS

Live Stream: Stream on FuboTV 

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090, 98Rock and 101.5 FM

Spread: Ravens, -5.5

Over/Under: 43.5

Weather: 44 degrees, mostly cloudy

RAVENS 2019 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE:

Week 1: Sun., 9/8 at Dolphins, 1:00 p.m. (W, 59-10)

Week 2: Sun., 9/15 vs. Cardinals, 1:00 p.m. (W, 23-17)

Week 3: Sun., 9/22 at Chiefs. 1:00 p.m. (L, 33-28)

Week 4: Sun., 9/29 vs. Browns, 1:00 p.m. (L, 40-25)

Week 5: Sun., 10/6 at Steelers, 1:00 p.m. (W (OT), 26-23)

Week 6: Sun., 10/13 vs. Bengals, 1:00 p.m. (W, 23-17)

Week 7: Sun., 10/20 at Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. (W, 30-16)

Week 8: BYE week

Week 9: Sun., 11/3 vs. Patriots, 8:20 p.m. (W, 37-20)

Week 10:  Sun., 11/10 at Bengals, 1:00 p.m. (W, 49-13)

Week 11: Sun., 11/17 vs. Texans, 1:00 p.m. (W, 41-7)

Week 12: Mon., 11/25 at Rams, 8:15 p.m. (W, 45-6)

Week 13: Sun., 12/1 vs. 49ers, 1:00 p.m. (W, 20-17)

Week 14: Sun., 12/8 at Bills, 1:00 p.m.

Week 15: Thu., 12/12 vs. Jets, 8:20 p.m.

Week 16: Sun., 12/22 at Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 17: Sun., 12/29 vs. Steelers, 1:00 p.m.

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