It is no real surprise, but if NC State hopes to down No. 3 Clemson on Saturday, it must first start stop the Tigers’ explosive running game.
In Clemson’s 60-point win at Wake Forest two weeks ago, the Tigers rushed for 471 yards, the fourth best rushing figure in school history. However, what was impressive was the way in which Clemson tallied up those yards.
Of the 471 yards, 310 came on five carries. Those runs all went for touchdowns, the first time in Clemson history the Tigers had five touchdowns runs of 50 yards or more in one game.
Travis Etienne had touchdowns of 59 and 70 yards to go along with a three-yard score, while Adam Choice had a 64-yard touchdown run and Lyn-J Dixon had scoring runs of 65 and 52 yards. All three running backs rushed for more than 128 yards, the first time that has happened in Clemson history.
“You have to stop the run,” NC State head coach Dave Doeren said Wednesday as part of the ACC Coaches Teleconference with the media. “What makes them challenging is their tailback is the fastest guy on the field.”
Etienne, who leads the ACC in rushing yards (761) and is averaging 126.8 yards per game, is that tailback. The sophomore has recorded four straight games in which he has rushed for 122 or more yards.
In the previous four games, Etienne has rushed for 654 yards and has scored nine of his league-high 11 rushing touchdowns.
“When No. 9 is in the game, he is super explosive,” Doeren said.
The Tigers, who host NC State Saturday (3:30 p.m.) at Death Valley, are explosive without Etienne as well. Clemson leads the ACC in explosive plays of 30, 40, 50 and 60 yards.
Against Wake Forest, quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw touchdown passes of 55 and 20 yards to Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins. Ross is averaging 20.4 yards per catch and Higgins 17.1
The Tigers (6-0, 3-0 ACC) lead the league in total offense (531.0 ypg), too and are second in scoring (42.2 ppg) and rushing (280.8 ypg) offense.
“Each week you’ve got a different challenge in this conference,” Doeren said. “When you play Clemson, it’s always the explosive plays you’re concerned about from a defensive standpoint. (Etienne) just adds a different dimension to their run game.”
By the way, NC State (5-0, 2-0 ACC) is third in the conference at stopping the run, allowing just 107.4 yards per game.