2019 has not been as easy for Etienne

2019 has not been as easy for Etienne

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2019 has not been as easy for Etienne

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Through five games this year, Clemson’s star RB has laid the ball on the ground 3 times

Last Saturday’s game at North Carolina was not a good day for Clemson running back Travis Etienne.

The 2018 ACC Player of the Year averaged a pedestrian-like 4.8 yards per carry and finished the afternoon with 67 yards overall. He also struggled in pass protection, as UNC linebacker Chazz Surratt lived in the Tigers’ backfield and often ran through Etienne to get there.

But the real kicker for Etienne was when he fumbled the football away in the second quarter which led to a Tar Heels’ touchdown. The fumble was officially just the second time he laid the ball on the ground this year, but actually he has fumbled three times.

Against Charlotte on Sept. 21, Etienne clearly fumbled on the first play of the game for Clemson, which the 49ers recovered. However, the officials said they blew the play dead with his forward progress, which was not the case. Replay proved the whistle came after he fumbled the ball.

What is wrong with Clemson’s All-American running back? He had just one fumble all of last season and through five games this year, he has laid the football on the ground three times.

“Just focus on the fundamentals. You have to give the opponent credit,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “He has (lost) two fumbles, but he has not been a guy that has put the ball on the ground. He has been pretty good. He might have had one in 15 games last year.”

Swinney says Etienne just needs to be fanatical about his fundamentals.

“Keep your wrist above the ball and good six-point pressure all the time. Things that we coach all the time and things that he knows,” the Clemson coach said. “He is not happy about it that is for sure. He is not trying to, but you have to give the opponent some credit for being able to knock it out.

“What you do is just go back to work and you keep giving him the ball. That is what we are going to do, we are going to keep handing it to him and trust him because I do.”

So far, the 2019 season has not quite gone the way Etienne and the Tigers were hoping it would. Through five games, his numbers are slightly down compared to this time last year. Defenses are keying on him by stacking the box and daring Clemson to run the ball when Etienne is in the game.

Through five games, the junior has rushed for 462 yards, 132 yards less than what he did in the first five games last year. He is averaging 6.9 yards per carry, down from last year 8.1 average at this time, and has scored 5 touchdowns, which is three less than the 8 he had to start the 2018 season.

This time last year, Etienne was averaging 118.8 yards per game. He is averaging 92.4 yards per game this season. Then there are the fumbles.

“He is a great football player. He is not perfect,” Swinney said. “The defense’s job is to go out there and get a stop and we have been doing that so get a fumble, ‘Good! Go get a stop!’ That is the mindset we have to have, but as far as Travis just go back to fundamentals and just be fanatical about it.”

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