After Travis Etienne struggled in Clemson’s win at North Carolina on Sept. 28, Dabo Swinney took him aside and gave his running back “some truth serum.”
“He just told me what everyone else had seen,” Etienne said following Saturday’s win over Wofford at Memorial Stadium. “It is just him loving us and coaching us and just being who he is. That is what makes him a great coach because he is not always going to pat you on the back.
“He is going to tell you when you are wrong. A great player needs that. If you want to be great you need that, so it is just really great.”
Etienne was great on Saturday. The junior rushed for a career-high 212 yards and scored two touchdowns on nine carries in the third-ranked Tigers’ 59-14 victory over Wofford.
“Usually, when you have your foot in somebody’s rear, that is not comfortable,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said afterward. “So, yeah. He did not like that. Most everybody likes a little sugar, but he needed it.
“Sometimes, great players need to be challenged and great players respond. Average players pout, he responded. Great players want to be coached. Great players want to be held to a standard. I did not really have to do that very much with Travis. He is unbelievable.”
Etienne averaged 23.6 yards per carry, while becoming the first running back in school history to run for 200 or more yards in three career games.
“Trevor’s efficiency rating is higher now than it was at this time last year,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We rushed for 419 yards. Etienne has set the tone for us for the last month. You think about all the great running backs who have come through here, and, today, he broke the school record for career rushing touchdowns.
“I’m really proud of Travis, and he’s got a lot more left. He’s been a joy to coach.”
Since the North Carolina game, Etienne has rushed for 640 yards and scored six touchdowns in the last four games. Whatever Swinney and co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said, it worked.
“He just told me to get the eye of the Tiger back and just play with intensity and just lay it all out on the line every time I go out there,” Etienne said.
Etienne ran like everything was on the line against the Terriers. He had scoring runs of 47 and 86 yards, which allowed him to pass James Davis as Clemson’s all-time leader for rushing touchdowns at 48. With his 86-yard run, he also tied C.J. Spiller’s record for total touchdowns at 51.
“It is a humbling experience. I just have to thank my offensive linemen and my receivers. Just great blocking,” Etienne said. “It is just them being who they are and giving me the ability to go out there and run free. So, I want to thank those guys and thank God. Without them I would not be in this position.”
Including his 212 yards in the contest, Etienne (1,102) reached 1,000 rushing yards on the year to give him 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. He became the sixth player in school history to reach 1,000 rushing yards in multiple seasons, joining Raymond Priester (1995-96), Woodrow Dantzler (2000-01), James Davis (2006-07), Andre Ellington (2011-12) and Wayne Gallman (2015-16).
Etienne reached the 1,000-yard mark in his ninth game of the season to tie Terrence Flagler’s school record for fewest games needed to reach 1,000 rushing yards (nine in 1986). The 1,000-yard campaign by Etienne in 2019 is the 22nd 1,000-yard rushing season in school history.
Swinney challenged Etienne prior to Saturday’s game to break Davis’ record and tie Spiller’s. Now he is approaching Priester’s all-time rushing record, which stands at 3,966 yards.
Etienne needs 441 yards to pass Priester to become the most decorated running back in Clemson history.
“I feel like once I leave, and maybe I grow old, and I look back on it, I will really see how amazing it was,” he said.
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