Monday Morning Quarterback
When second-ranked Clemson takes on Pittsburgh this coming Saturday in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, it will mark the Tigers’ sixth appearance.
And since this column is called Monday Morning Quarterback, why not bring up an interesting fact about Clemson’s quarterbacks in the big game.
The Tigers’ six appearances have all come since 2009, and when Saturday’s game kicks off at 8 p.m., from Bank of America Stadium, Trevor Lawrence will be the fifth different Clemson quarterback to start in the championship game.
Kyle Parker started for the Tigers in the 2009 title game when they lost in a thriller down in Tampa to Georgia Tech. In 2011, Tajh Boyd led Clemson to its first ACC Championship in 20 years as the Tigers thrashed Virginia Tech.
In 2015 and ’16, Deshaun Watson helped Clemson down North Carolina in Charlotte and then get by Virginia Tech when the championship was briefly moved to Orlando, Fla., due to political reasons.
The championship game returned to Charlotte last year and this time Kelly Bryant led the Tigers to a third straight ACC Championship.
Now, it is Trevor Lawrence’s turn.
“I’m excited for Trevor. He’s had a great year. Unbelievable game last night. I mean, just wow,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “He has really settled in, is very confident in what he’s doing. He just sees things.”
Lawrence saw a lot in Clemson’s 56-35 victory over rival South Carolina this past Saturday. He threw for 383 yards—a Clemson record in the series—while completing 27-of-36 passes. He had one touchdown, but most importantly he did not throw an interception.
In the 12 games he has played in, including eight starts, Lawrence has thrown 22 touchdown passes this season to only four interceptions. In the last few weeks, he has also got it done with his legs too, including a 32-yard run against the Gamecocks.
“He’s making plays with his legs,” Swinney said. “Back-to-back weeks, I think last week he averaged over eight yards a carry, this week over 10 yards a carry.”
For the season, Lawrence has thrown for 2,488 yards, while completing 66.2 percent of his passes. Though he is a freshman, he leads the ACC in touchdown passes and the fewest interceptions thrown. He also leads the league in quarterback efficiency with a 156.8 rating.
“I’m really proud of his progress, where he is right now. He’s just going to continue to improve and get better,” Swinney said. “But this will be a really fun experience for him. I don’t have any doubt this is one of the reasons he came here. He wanted to compete for championships.”
Clemson’s other four quarterbacks in the ACC Championship Game did pretty well. Because C.J. Spiller ran all over the field that night in Tampa, Fla., Parker was not asked to do too much, but he completed 10-of-17 passes for 91 yards when he had to.
Boyd threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns while also running for another. He completed 20-of-29 passes on his way to being named the game’s MVP.
Deshaun Watson earned MVP honors in the 2015 and ’16 championship games. In 2015, he threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns, while running for another 131 yards and two more touchdowns.
In 2016, Watson threw for 288 yards and rushed for 85 more, while again running for two touchdowns and throwing for three.
Last year, Bryant showed out for the Tigers on his way to being named MVP. He completed his first 15 passes to set an ACC Championship Game record, which was owned by Watson (13 straight), while finishing with 252 passing yards. He ran for a touchdown and threw for another in the Clemson victory.
So, will Lawrence win another championship for Clemson, while having an MVP performance, too?
“He’s got a division championship, a state championship, and next up is try to win an ACC championship,” Swinney said. “I know he’ll do everything he can this week to prepare to go play well.”