After the way Trevor Lawrence shredded Alabama’s defense in last year’s College Football Playoff National Championship, it wasn’t hard to believe he was untouchable. Let’s face it, very few quarterbacks have done that to a Nick Saban defense and never a freshman quarterback.
You can imagine the surprise when Lawrence’s second-quarter throw to Cornell Powell was intercepted by Tre Swilling and returned 41 yards to the Clemson 2-yard line. Head coach Dabo Swinney was surprised, co-offensive coordinators Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott were surprised, and of course, Lawrence was surprised.
Prior to Swilling’s interception, Lawrence threw 182 consecutive passes without an interception, second in Clemson history all-time.
What happened then? Did Lawrence make a bad read and prove he is human after all or did Swilling make a great play?
“First of all, our split wasn’t good at wideout. We had a poor split. But the corner, I think, guessed and played a good technique,” Swinney said during his weekly Sunday teleconference.”
Swilling was reading Powell, the outside receiver, and T.J. Chase, who was in the slot. Lawrence was throwing a quick pass intended for Powell, thinking Swilling was playing man coverage. Instead, thanks to the wide receivers’ splits, Swilling played zone.
“It actually was the right play, as far as what Trevor’s eyes were on,” Swinney said. “I thought initially, when it first happened, that he might have played a hard corner, kind of like a trap corner, a bail Cover 2 guy. He did not. He really just zoned turned. I think he was keying because of the spilt and I think he just jumped it. He guessed right.”
Swinney said his receivers need to be a little more aggressive and protect those kinds of throws.
“We did a poor job with out splits. That did not help us because I think that really put his antenna up to think quick game and he zone turned and he read the quarterback’s quick-game drop and then broke on it,” the Clemson coach said. “If we had a double move on, it would have been a walk-in touchdown. But he guessed right. He made a great play and you tip your hat and move on.”
The Tigers will try to make sure they don’t make that mistake this Saturday when they host No. 12 Texas A&M. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at Death Valley and will be televised by ABC.
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