Trevor Lawrence makes it look easy.
Time and time again, NC State dared the freshman quarterback to throw an out to the field side coming off the opposite hash. Time and time again, Lawrence made its defense look silly.
Clemson’s quarterback looked like a quarterback who was ready to play in the NFL with the type of throws he was making in the second-ranked Tigers’ 41-7 victory over No. 22 NC State on Saturday. He made it look so easy, most of the 81,295 fans in attendance did not really understand how difficult those throws were.
“He puts a lot of pressure on the defense, that’s for sure,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said during his teleconference with the media on Sunday. “He made some beautiful throws.”
Lawrence finished the game completing 26-of-39 passes for 308 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown pass to Tee Higgins in the second quarter. However, it was his consistent ability to make throws to the field side that stunned the Wolfpack and will probably force defenses from here on out to take note of his ability to make those plays.
“People are going to have to respect him more,” Swinney said. “He is just getting more and more comfortable in all aspects, but what he does best is throw the football. When you can get the ball on the perimeter to the field as quickly as he can, that really stresses a defense and makes them have to defend all the zones.”
And what that does is open all the other parts of the offense up.
Clemson (7-0, 4-0 ACC) ran for only 91 yards against the Wolfpack, who was hell bent to keep running back Travis Etienne at bay. So, they kept bringing an extra defender down into the box, daring Lawrence to be the guy to make the play. Every time Lawrence noticed what was going on he found ways to make a play and move the chains.
The previous four weeks, the Tigers showed they can run the football with the best of them. On Saturday, Lawrence proved they can win a game throwing the football if they must as well.
“When you can run the ball like we have been able to run the ball, there is something there,” Swinney said. “There is a weakness to every defense. His mind and his arm, and just his poise and how he prepares every week gives us a great chance because he can make the throws that are needed, and he has good recognition of what the defenses are trying to do.”
So far this year, Clemson has been one of the more explosive teams in the country and though the Tigers did not have as many on Saturday as they did in other wins this year, Lawrence’s performance and the types of throws he made will go a long way in allowing the 2018 offense to continue to grow and grow.
“Just from preparing and watching film, we knew we would have some of those looks on the outside against man coverage and we took advantage of that,” Lawrence said.
After scoring six touchdowns of 50-plus yards against Wake Forest two weeks ago, Clemson came back and had scoring drives of 9, 6, 7, 8 and 8 plays against the Wolfpack. Those five drives consisted on 57, 75, 54, 41 and 84 yards.
“I think the fact that two games in a row we ran the ball like we did against Syracuse and Wake and then you come back, and you throw the ball for 380 yards on a team that is the second-best scoring defense in this league,” Swinney said. “We have had a lot of explosive plays so that is a product of all of those things, but certainly (Lawrence’s) ability to get the ball to the field and down the field makes us explosive.”