CLEMSON FOOTBALL: Louisville game pits cousin vs. cousin
CLEMSON — When the Clemson Tigers take on the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday (8:12 p.m., ABC), it is understood that much of the success will depend on finding a way to stop the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.
But for Clemson sophomore starting cornerback Trayvon Mullen, the job Saturday night is about stopping family from having bragging rights at Thanksgiving dinner back home in Florida — because Jackson is Mullen’s cousin.
“I’m looking forward to it; we talk a lot, because that’s my cousin,” Mullen said. “We talk a lot, and I’m telling him I’m ready to get after him. I’m just ready to compete with him, and it’s just going to be a challenge.
“We talk every day. Even when we’re not playing, we just talk. We don’t even so much talk about football and us playing; we just talk, just because we’re cousins. But as far as talking about the game and things like that, we haven’t discussed that.”
While Mullen and Jackson have not talked about the upcoming game between the No.2 Tigers and No. 14 Cardinals, they have discussed last year’s game.
The 2016 contest between the Tigers and the Cardinals was an instant classic.
The Tigers jumped out to a 28-10 halftime lead, before Jackson led the Cardinals to score on five straight possessions, taking a 36-28 lead with 7:50 remaining in the game. The Tigers scored twice down the stretch to ultimately win the game, 42-36.
Jackson finished the game with 295 yards passing and 162 yards rushing on the night, however, according to Mullen, he felt he could have done more.
“He felt like they could have done things better to put themselves in better position and win,” Mullen said.
As Mullen prepares for his second run-in with his Heisman-winning cousin, he believes that the Tiger defense will be ready for the Louisville offense.
“I noticed that they’ve got a lot of real good players, a lot of talented athletes, a lot of talented players,” Mullen said. “I just feel like, if we get after them and do what we do then the game will be simplified for us. I feel like they’re a really good team; but with our defense and the way we run our scheme and things like that, we’ll have a way to get after them.
“He exposes a lot of people in the way that he plays. As far as, people missing tackles and him still running and getting the ball to his players. But as long as we stay disciplined, it will be all right for us.”
It is not only Jackson who poses a threat to opposing defenses, it is a bevy of talented wide receivers — including Jaylen Smith.
Smith was named the ACC’s Receiver of the Week this week, following a career-high nine receptions and 183 yards, which included a 75-yard touchdown reception at North Carolina on Saturday.
But as talented as the weapons are around Jackson, Mullen is confident in Clemson’s defense.
“They’ve got some good receivers; they’re talented, I’ll give them that,” Mullen said. “But we’ve got some good DBs as well. So, it’s going to be a lot of competing, a lot of competition to see who the best guy is.
“There’s a lot of great players out there. I feel like we have a lot of great players as well.”
Even if this week did not feature a match-up between relatives, it would still mean the world to Mullen, because he is that kind of athlete and competitor.
“I’m looking forward to it, because I just like to compete; it don’t matter, I’m going to compete,” Mullen said. “It don’t matter where we play at, who we play -- it’s just all about you, how you compete. How you prepare and that’s all that determines how you’re going to play.
“It’s real exciting, going to someone else’s home. You’ve just got to stay focused and do your job. I feel like we’ll play good.”
Good luck, cousin.