When he went around the right side on a second-and-four play from the Georgia Southern 40-yard line, Travis Etienne finally saw day light.
Through the first two games and three quarters, Clemson’s starting running back had been so close to breaking a long run and each time he would just get tripped or lose his balance. But finally, he broke off a long run on Saturday.
With the Tigers ahead by 17 points midway through the fourth quarter, Etienne broke to the right, saw the open grass down the sideline and raced 40 yards untouched for the game clinching touchdown in second-ranked Clemson’s 38-7 victory on Saturday.
“A couple of players were clowning me about it on the sideline right before it happened,” Etienne said. “They were like, ‘Man! When is that run going to come?’ It just finally happened. It was just me being patient and not rushing things and letting it come to me.”
Dabo Swinney made sure it came to Etienne a lot on Saturday. After promising the Jennings, La., native would get more touches this week, the Clemson head coach delivered on his promise.
Etienne carried the ball 16 times for a career-high 162 yards and two touchdowns.
“He is just a very natural back and he has great vision,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “He anticipates well, and he has great acceleration and he runs lateral for a guy that is only about 205 pounds and can run between the tackles.”
Though he had his best day as a Tiger, Etienne said he can do much better.
“Yardage rise? Yeah, it was,” he said. “But there was definitely a lot of stuff I left out there and things I did not do. Technique wise it was not my best game and I need to do better than that.”
It is hard to be much better than the way Etienne played on Saturday. He led a Clemson running game that had 309 yards on 46 carries. As a team, the Tigers averaged 6.7 yards per carry. Etienne averaged 10.1 yards per carry.
“Last week, we had some explosive plays in the passing game, but for us to be our best, we have to be to able to run it,” Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “Our goal coming into the game was to have over 250 yards rushing. So, I thought it was great when I looked up there in the fourth quarter and saw we were already at 216. I knew we were getting close and those guys went and got it done in the fourth quarter.
“That is definitely something positive for us to build on.”