The last two weeks have been different for running back Travis Etienne.
After four straight games of rushing for at least 122 yards, the sophomore has just 84 yards combined in the last two games.
Part of it is due to the fact NC State and Florida State stacked the box and dared No. 2 Clemson to throw the ball with a true freshman, Trevor Lawrence, at quarterback. However, it’s not all because of the defense.
“You know, the biggest thing with Travis is just quit trying to be Superman,” Clemson running backs coach and co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “I tell him all the time that sometimes you go from being a hero to a zero. Don’t be a hero, just do your job.”
Considering Etienne has rushed for 845 yards and scored 14 rushing touchdowns already this season, it might seem like he has done a good job of being a hero. However, there are things the average person does not see that has caused the Jennings, La., running back not to be to successful the last two games.
He averaged just 2.60 yards per carry against NC State and rushed for a season-low 39 yards, while he averaged 4.5 yards this past Saturday against Florida State.
Elliott pointed out that on the first two runs of the game, Etienne missed it because he was too impatient with the play.
“That is his running style,” Elliott said. “He is so confident he can break tackles and he is so confident in his physicality and his speed that a lot of times he does not want to wait on the offensive line.”
A great example of that was in the second quarter when the offensive line had everyone blocked, but he did not wait on the tackle and failed to reach the end zone.
“If he just slows down and let’s the tackle get out in front of him, we had a wall built. He is going to walk in,” Elliott said. “So, the biggest thing is just getting him to understand the different schemes, who your lead blockers are and just trusting the process and being patient. That is where he has to grow.”
At Wake Forest it was the same thing. Etienne was a little jacked up early on and missed on a couple of holes because he hit them too hard and did not let the play develop in front of him.
“Then he started to slow down and trust his line and he hits a big play,” Elliott said. “We tell him, ‘It is my job to get you to the line of scrimmage. It’s my job to get you to the second level and then it is your job to take it the distance.’
“We just have to continue to work every single day. He has a great attitude about it, but he is still a young guy. You come off a game where you did not have the production that you wanted and sometimes you start pressing. I think he pressed on two runs.”
Etienne finished the Florida State game with just 45 yards on 10 carries and for the first time this season he failed to score a touchdown.
However, despite the low numbers the last two weeks, Etienne is still smiling, and he loves to be coached.
“He likes for you to get on him,” Elliott said. “He wants to be coached because he knows he is talented. He is not conceded in that he knows he can run, and he be physical. But, he also knows he does not understand all of the scheme yet, so he needs me to coach him hard.”