WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Trevor Lawrence’s second career start went much better than his first.
First and foremost, the freshman quarterback stayed healthy after suffering a neck injury in the first half of Clemson’s win vs. Syracuse a week ago.
The former five-star prospect also posted a very efficient performance through the air, completing 20-of-25 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns while helping fourth-ranked Clemson to a 63-3 victory over Wake Forest at BB&T Field – on his birthday, no less.
“To go 20-of-25 on the road, leading the offense, you’ve just got to be proud of the young man — on his birthday, too,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said.
In his second game since replacing Kelly Bryant as Clemson’s starting quarterback – and his first road start — Lawrence attempted 25 passes and completed 20 of them for an 80-percent completion percentage, all three of which are career-high marks through his first six games as a Tiger. The Cartersville, Ga., native finished the game with a passer rating of 165.2.
Aside from turning the ball over via a fumble on Clemson’s second drive of the game, Lawrence did not make many mistakes. After the Tigers gained just 18 yards on their first three possessions, Lawrence orchestrated an offense that scored four touchdowns, including two passing touchdowns, on its final six drives of the first half as Clemson took a 28-0 lead into the locker room.
“He had the one play there on the second drive, but man, he’s still a young guy,” Elliott said. “We’ve given him the keys to the car and we’re challenging him to run the offense. So, he’s got to manage the snap count, he’s got to manage the protections, he’s got to change his protections in empty, he’s got to handle all the motions. We’re putting backs in the pistol… There’s a lot of stuff on his plate, so I thought he handled it well.”
Following two touchdown runs by Travis Etienne – who finished with 167 yards rushing and three touchdowns – Lawrence roped a 55-yard touchdown pass to fellow freshman Justyn Ross down the right hash marks for a 21-0 lead with 9:53 left in the second quarter.
Two offensive possessions later, Lawrence guided the Tigers on a 10-play, 81-yard scoring drive that took less than three minutes and gave the Tigers a four-touchdown advantage entering halftime. Lawrence capped the drive with a 20-yard laser to Tee Higgins for a touchdown.
Overall, Clemson’s offense racked up a whopping 698 total yards, including 471 yards rushing. The Tigers’ relentless attack averaged 10.0 yards per play and picked up 22 first downs.
After Saturday’s effort, Lawrence is now 69-of-100 passing (69 percent) for 868 yards and 11 touchdowns against just two interceptions in the first six games of his college career.
As good as Lawrence has been so far, Elliott knows Lawrence will only continue to improve moving forward.
Said Elliott: “There’s still things that he’s going to see and he’s going to say ‘OK, that one play right there, I kind of got fooled, I’m going to fix that. I’m drifting a little bit in the pocket. I’m going to get a little bit more comfortable and confident in my protection so I can sit in the pocket so I’m not putting my tackles in a bind by drifting outside the protection of the pocket.’ So, he’s just going to get better.”