Lawrence’s ability to run makes Tigers even harder to stop

Lawrence’s ability to run makes Tigers even harder to stop

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Lawrence’s ability to run makes Tigers even harder to stop

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As he addressed his team in the locker room following last Thursday’s win over Georgia Tech, Dabo Swinney listed through some of the accolades his team and some individuals accomplished for top-ranked Clemson.

The head coach highlighted Travis Etienne’s record day, the defense’s two fourth down stops, four forced turnovers, the offensive line’s dominance and several team records. However, he also mentioned what quarterback Trevor Lawrence did, and probably for the first time his career, it had nothing to do with the sophomore’s arm.

Lawrence ran the ball three times for 24 yards against Tech, just enough to keep the Yellow Jackets defense honest, which allowed Etienne to do the rest. Lawrence’s success running the ball could have been felt even more, but his 22-yard run in the first quarter was called back due to a holding penalty.

But the Jackets had seen enough from Lawrence. They knew they could no longer just focus on Etienne, they had to account for the quarterback, too.

“He is not going to be Lamar Jackson, but he can be really efficient and dangerous with his legs,” Swinney said. “You just can’t check a box and say ‘Okay, that guy is not going to run.’ That is an advantage for the defense. When they have to defend that part of the game, especially with our ability with those other guys around him, and then with our ability to throw the football, that creates an advantage for us, we think.”

It did create one. It allowed Etienne to break loose for 205 yards and 3 touchdowns. It allowed an offense, despite having Lawrence’s strong arm and all of his stellar receivers, to rush for 411 yards as a team. It allowed the Tigers to still score 52 points on a night when Lawrence had perhaps his worst performance in his young career throwing the football.

“Last year, he held the ball a little too much and took a few sacks. He took a few chances,” Swinney said. “It might have been second and ten and he had an opportunity to get us five or six yards to make third and three or whatever, instead it was third and ten.

“He is just very confident in making his throws. But being just a little more efficient with his legs is something we have talked a lot about, and you saw that tonight. He was outstanding.”

Lawrence threw for 168 yards and a touchdown on 13 of 23 passing. However, he threw two interceptions, after throwing just four total in 15 games last year.

Swinney isn’t worried, though. Lawrence admitted after the game he was trying to throw the ball out of bounds on the second interception, but the ball got away from him and stayed in bounds enough to be picked off.

On the first one, he admitted he got fooled. Swinney did too.

“The one pick, he did not force it. We just did not get post-snap confirmation, I don’t think,” Swinney said. “I have to see it before I can tell you what happened because we all got fooled on that one. Give them credit. They made a great play.”

But Lawrence called a great game. Seeing the Jackets were playing a lot of Cover 2, he took what the defense gave them, and on a few occasions, he took advantage of it with his legs, which the Yellow Jackets did not expect.

“He is just a really good athlete. He can run, and we knew that last year,” Swinney said. “I just think he needed to grow into it a little bit. I just think the game has slowed down for him. He has really worked hard on that part of it and not forcing things.”

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