Travis Etienne had a lot of fun Saturday in No. 2 Clemson’s, 27-23, victory over Syracuse.
Sure, when a running back carries the football 27 times and rushes for 203 yards and scores three touchdowns, he is going to have a lot of fun. However, the sophomore wasn’t having fun because of that, he had fun because he was a part of what he felt was a special win.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Etienne said. “Seeing the crowd rally like that and seeing our guys coming in and making plays, it was really great.”
What Etienne is too modest to realize is that he played a major role in all of those things happening as he scored two of his three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including a game-winning 2-yard run with 41 seconds to go.
The Jennings, La., running back also had a 26-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that pulled the Tigers within three points, 23-20, with 11:08 to play.
Etienne became just the 12th Clemson player in history to run for 200 or more yards in a game and the first one since Andre Ellington rushed for 228 yards against Auburn back on 2012.
“He just continues to be himself,” co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Tony Elliott said. “He runs hard. He refuses to go down. He takes some chances, but more times than not when he takes those chances, they pay off big.
“I’m really proud of him and the way that he ran the football.”
Of his career-high 203 yards, 88 of them came in the fourth quarter when the Tigers (5-0, 2-0 ACC) needed them the most.
“That is just credit to my guys, them pushing me and my offensive line having those holes wide open for me and the receivers blocking down field. It is just credit to them,” Etienne said.
And though those things might be true, it was Etienne’s determination and desire to succeed that literally carried his team to a win on Saturday. With starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence on the bench due to a concussion, it was Etienne that took on the load as the offense’s primary playmaker and he did not disappoint.
“He always runs like that,” Elliott said. “Obviously, with the situation in the game and a lot that was on the line, people are going to notice that a little bit more. But, if you watch him every time he touches the ball it is like he is desperate. He is desperate to get yards and he is desperate to make a play. I think that makes (Adam) Choice and (Tavien) Feaster better and hopefully this will be something that sparks us as an offense that we are close.”
Clemson finished the day with 469 total yards, including 293 on the ground and all but 90 of those yards came from Etienne.
“I have said it before, he learned from last year,” Elliott said. “Going into the semifinal playoff game late in the season, he was a young guy and he did not understand the importance of conditioning his body in the summer. Hats off to Coach (Joey) Batson and himself of understanding the importance of taking care of his body because that is when you win games in the fourth quarter.”
Etienne without a doubt won the game for Clemson on Saturday, and he had a lot of fun doing it.