The game plan was simple.
Clemson wanted to be more aggressive and take some shots to get the offense in rhythm early in the game. So, on the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Trevor Lawrence dropped back and delivered a 40-yard pass downfield to wide receiver Tee Higgins, and off they went.
On the next play, Travis Etienne threw a halfback pass 23 yards to Justyn Ross to set the Tigers up inside the 12-yard line and four plays later Lawrence shoveled a 3-yard scoring pass to Etienne.
In six plays, the second-ranked Tigers drove the ball 75 yards and needed just two minutes and 51 second to punch it into the end zone.
Clemson’s aggressive play calling, and execution, paid off and they followed that up by scoring three more times on its next four possessions as it rolled to an easy 45-14 victory over Florida State at Memorial Stadium.
“I just felt like we were playing a little tight in the last game, so I just wanted our team to have an edge getting off the bus today,” head coach Dabo Swinney said afterward. “I thought our guys had the right tone. They were locked in and eager to get back on the field. We were also eager to get back to doing the things that we need to do in order to win, like winning the turnover margin, making big plays on both sides of the ball and having great rhythm on offense.”
The Tigers (6-0, 4-0 ACC) finished the game with 552 total yards and ran 91 plays. They also held the football for 39:37, the longest in the Swinney era and the longest in a game for Clemson since 1992.
“We all were challenged over the last two weeks to come out and to get back to being who we are,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “We wanted to have an aggressive game plan. That’s when we have been at our best. The guys put in the work. They had a really, really great week of preparation. [I’m] really excited to get in and watch the film because obviously there were a lot of good things.”
Lawrence threw for 170 yards and ran for 40 more, while totaling four touchdowns, all in the first half. Swinney took the sophomore out of the game following Amari Rodgers’ 29-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the third quarter.
“It just about going out and playing, fast tempo and being more aggressive and taking some shots, and I think we did that tonight,” said Lawrence, who completed 17 of 25 passes, all in the first half. “It worked out well. We just let our guys make plays. Just not thinking too much and going out there and playing.”
Besides his 3-yard touchdown pass to Etienne, Lawrence also threw two touchdown passes to Justyn Ross of 10 and 8 yards, while also running 8 yards for another score. Rodgers’ touchdown gave the Tigers a 35-0 lead with 11:49 to play in the third quarter.
Speaking of Etienne, after being held under 80 yards in each of the last four games, the junior rushed for 127 yards on 17 carries against the Seminoles. He ran for 89 yards in the first half, and then opened the second half with four straight carries for 38 yards, including a 27-yard run on his last carry of the game.
“It was very important for us to remember who we were, come out, play football and play to the standard,” Etienne said.
The Tigers remembered who they were from the outset on Saturday, something Swinney preached about in the two weeks since their near loss at North Carolina.
“It was a huge step in the right direction,” he said.
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