Dabo Swinney got to see something in Trevor Lawrence on Saturday he not seen before. He got to see how he responded with the game on the line.
Though Lawrence is 16-0 as a starter, the Clemson quarterback has never played in a four-quarter game during his time leading the Tigers. Former quarterback Kelly Bryant led them to a win at Texas A&M when the game was on the line last year in College Station, Texas. Then it was Chase Brice who came off the bench for an injured Lawrence in Clemson’s come-from-behind victory over the Orange a few weeks later.
But on Saturday, Lawrence led the Tigers on what turned out to be a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. After struggling in the third quarter, when he completed just 3-of-14 for 36 yards, Lawrence led Clemson on a 6-play, 55-yard drive after his defense forced North Carolina into turnover on downs at the Clemson 45.
“I have never seen him with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. Not with it down to the last second, tied ballgame and the end of the game there. I have never seen that,” Swinney said during his teleconference call with the local media on Monday. “Third-and-six and he has to make a play there late in the fourth quarter to put us up, it was awesome.”
Lawrence converted two third-down plays on the Tigers’ winning drive. Facing a third-and-three from the UNC 48, he found tight end J.C. Chalk near the sideline for a six-yard gain and a first down.
Three plays later, Clemson faced another third-down situation, this time on third-and-six from the North Carolina 38. Lawrence found Tee Higgins down the seam for what turned out to be game-winning touchdown with 9:54 to play in the game.
“He has a lot of things he has to improve that I don’t think he did very well, but man he just hung in there,” Swinney said. “That is what the great ones do. It is not always perfect. I know a lot of people think he is some kind of robot or we are some kind of video game people. No, we are real people. There are no perfect people. There are no perfect players, not perfect coaches and people make mistakes and things like that. Sometimes, you have to overcome some things.
“He has not had to do that, so that fourth quarter, just watching how he handles himself, watching his leadership and how he was over their engaging with the defense. It was just cool to see how he has grown from last year when he was just trying to get in line and trying to earn a job.”
Lawrence finished the game 18-for-30 for 206 yards, while also running 11 times for 45 yards and scoring another touchdown on the ground. He now has four rushing touchdowns on the season.
“And let me say too, Trevor Lawrence, anybody that doesn’t think he should be in the Heisman race didn’t watch this game,” North Carolina head coach Mack Brown said this past Saturday. “I mean we are after him all night and he runs away and is throwing sideways.
“He made a play down here to (Higgins) that was one of the best plays I have ever seen. It should have been a sack, but it was a 15-yard gain so give Trevor a lot of credit.”
The play Brown was talking about was his third-and-nine pass to Higgins in the second quarter which went for 17 yards to the UNC 10, setting up his own 3-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14 with 33 seconds to play in the half.
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