Notre Dame knowns it has to shut down Etienne if t wants to win the Cotton Bowl Classic
When Drue Tranquill met Clemson running back Travis Etienne at ESPN’s College Football Awards Show earlier this month, he could not believe it was the same guy he has watched on film.
Notre Dame’s linebacker thought the ACC’s Player of the Year was bigger than Etienne’s 5-foot-10, 200-pound frame.
“We were chatting a bit and I was telling him that he looks a lot smaller in person than I thought he would be,” Tranquill said. “On film he has flashes of like (Leonard Fournette), just running through tackles, running through guys. He runs a lot bigger than he is, definitely.”
Etienne, a Doak Walker Award Finalist as the nation’s best running back, leads the ACC with 1,474 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. He also leads the conference in overall touchdowns with 22 and in points.
Tranquill remembers watching the Wake Forest game and how the Demon Deacons, who play a similar style of defense as the Irish, did a good job early in the game stopping the run. However, Etienne broke off a 59-yard touchdown early in the second quarter and the flood gates opened.
“He will be the best overall guy we have seen this year in terms of running with power and running with finesse,” the senior said. “He has quick feet in the hole and being able to make guys miss.”
Clemson (13-0) finished with 471 rushing yards that afternoon against the Demon Deacons as it rolled to a 63-3 victory in Winston-Salam, N.C. The Tigers’ rushing yards that afternoon was the fourth best mark in school history.
Etienne finished the day with 167 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries, including a 70-yard touchdown to open the second half, his final carry of the day. The sophomore running back is averaging 8.3 yards per carry, while the Tigers lead the nation at 6.8 yards per carry overall.
Later in the season, Clemson topped its performance against Wake Forest with a 492-yard rushing performance against Louisville. Etienne ran for 153 yards and scored one touchdown on just eight carries in the 77-16 win.
In all, the Tigers, who average 259.8 yards per game, have rushed for 300 or more yards in five different games this season, the most in one season since the 1978 team did the same. Clemson ran for 351 and 301 yards in its last two games, easy wins over rival South Carolina and Pittsburgh in the ACC Championship Game.
Etienne went 75 yards for a touchdown on the first-play from scrimmage against Pitt. He was named the ACC Championship Game’s Most Valuable Player as he finished with 156 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.
Overall, Etienne rushed for more than 100 yards seven times this season, including a career-high 203 yards against Syracuse.
“You got to stop the run to be able to beat this team,” Tranquill said. “And then we have to be able to tackle on the perimeter. Trevor (Lawrence) is going to whip it out there. We have to be able to tackle their playmakers in space.”