WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Prior to the start of the football season, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney proclaimed the Tigers had one of the best collection of running backs in the country.
After what the fourth-ranked Tigers did to Wake Forest on Saturday, it’s hard to argue his point.
Clemson rushed for 471 yards, while running backs Travis Etienne, Lyn-J Dixon and Adam Choice each crossed the century mark in the Tigers’ 63-3 victory at Wake Forest. Etienne led the way with 167 yards on 10 carries, while Dixon added 163 yards and Choice 128 yards, both on 10 carries as well.
To top it off, the three running backs combined for five touchdowns of 50 plus yards.
“Most definitely we have one of the best groups,” Etienne said after he scored three touchdowns on Saturday. “For us, it is about coming out each week, practicing and preparing the right way. We take every rep like it is a game rep and the results are paying for itself.”
The hard work is paying off for the Clemson running game. Following Clemson’s win over Texas A&M in Week 2, when the Tigers ran for a season-low 115 yards, Swinney made it a point to tell the media, and the fans, that they planned to run the football more and they were going to make more of an effort to make sure Etienne was a major part of that plan.
Since then, Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC) is averaging 330.3 yards per game, while Etienne is averaging 163.5 yards per game. He has rushed for no fewer than 122 yards in the four games and has scored nine touchdowns.
He touchdown runs of 59, 3 and 70 yards against Wake Forest.
This is not the first time Etienne has had a stretch of games where he has been so dominant. During his junior year in high school he rushed for 2,938 yards and scored 42 touchdowns. He averaged 267.1 yards and 3.8 touchdowns per game.
He also rushed for 2,459 yards and 35 touchdowns during his senior year.
So far in college, Etienne is not slowing down. Granted the competition is tougher, but the Jennings, La., native continues to run hard and he continues to get better.
Through the first half of the season, Etienne has rushed for 761 yards and is averaging 126.8 yards per game. He is the first Clemson player to have four consecutive 100-yard rushing performances since Woodrow Dantzler did the same in 2000.
Etienne’s 654 yards during this current four-game span, broke Dantzler’s school-record for most rushing yards in a four-game span. He had 623 yards during the 2000 season.
The Clemson running back is averaging 9.2 yards per carry and has scored 11 touchdowns and has quietly slipped into the Heisman Trophy conversation.
“To be honest it’s not really even talked about with us, it’s really not,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “We’re obviously really excited about him, but you know we’ve got a long year and we’ll continue to play. But, there’s no question that he’s very special and his average yards per carry, that’s just absolutely incredible.”
Etienne is flattered college football analyst and media are starting to talk about him as a Heisman Trophy candidate, but he points out that his success is not all about him.
“It’s a testament to my offensive line and the receivers blocking down field,” he said. “Me even being in this position, and without them, I would not even be in this conversation. I just chalk it up to them.”
And to a Clemson running game that is averaging 280.8 yards per game. Swinney was right. He does have a pretty good collection of running backs.