There were many occasions during the spring and in preseason camp when Travis Etienne said he was not focused on any postseason accolades, including being a possible candidate in this year’s Heisman Trophy Race.
His goal is to be the best teammate he can be, while also becoming a better running back.
Though he may not like all the attention from the media and the fans and all the talk about the Heisman Trophy, Etienne’s Heisman Campaign was unofficially released on Thursday at Death Valley. The Clemson running back opened the 2019 season with a career-high 205 yards and 3 touchdowns in leading the top-ranked Tigers to a 52-14 victory over Georgia Tech.
It’s like Etienne’s Heisman Campaign was shot out of cannon, literally.
With the ball resting at Clemson’s own 10-yard line, the Jennings, Louisiana native took a delayed draw from quarterback Trevor Lawrence and bounced the ball back to the left side of the formation, where he ran up the back of left tackle Jackson Carman.
“I ran into Jackson, but it kind of worked out for the better because Jackson got the corner right in front of him and he kind of just ran over the guy and that worked out pretty good,” Etienne said.
As Carman pancaked a defenseless Georgia Tech defensive back, Etienne broke to the sideline where he broke two would-be-tackles and then kicked it into another gear and ran away from everyone. The 90-yard touchdown tied a Clemson record, originally set by Banks McFadden in a win over Presbyterian in 1939 and later tied by Buck George against Furman in 1951.
“It was a great call from Coach (Tony Elliott) and the guys went out there and executed it well,” Etienne said afterward. “Diondre Overton gave me a great block down the sideline and it was just kind off to the races.”
Indeed, he was.
After his 90-yard jaunt, Etienne scored his second touchdown on a 14-yard run up the middle and then on the Tigers’ first possession of the third quarter, he ran between the tackles and never got touched on his way to a 48-yard score. It was the last of his 12 carries.
Etienne averaged 17.1 yards per carry. Of his 205 yards, 203 of them came when running between the tackles.
What makes Etienne’s performance even better is what happened before it all began. Prior to his 90-yard sprint, he fumbled and turned the ball over, something he never does.
However, the very next time he touched the football, he was tying a 68-year old Clemson record.
“That is what he is supposed to do,” Elliott said. “Early on, and Travis will tell you, he was probably trying to do too much. He was pressing a little bit, especially early on.
“We had a counter play going back to the field and he bounced it outside, and it results in a TFL. Everybody is fussing at the offensive line, but really that was him making the improper read.”
Elliott was right. Etienne had just 24 yards rushing on his first five carries to go along with the fumble. He went on to rush for 181 and 3 touchdowns on his last seven.
“I am really proud of him bouncing back,” Clemson’s offensive coordinator and running backs coach said. “He is the guy we are going to go to. It a situation like that you have to go on to the next play. Don’t let a bad play beat you twice.”
And in the process, Etienne allowed it to jump start his Heisman Campaign, even if it is unofficial.
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