Needs 329 yards to become Tigers’ career rushing leader
RALEIGH, N.C. —The last time Clemson was in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, Travis Etienne did not have the best of days.
The Tigers’ starting running back fumbled and lost the football, his third fumble of the year, he was held to 67 yards on 14 carries, had just two receptions for 3 yards and was a liability as a pass blocker. It was arguably his worst day as a Tiger.
After the game and all during Clemson’s bye week that followed, Etienne was called out by head coach Dabo Swinney and his position coach, co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.
“Sometimes you just need a kick in the backside,” Swinney said recently.
Whatever it was, it worked. Since the UNC game, Etienne has clearly been the best player in the ACC. He continued his demolition of ACC defenses with 112 rushing yards, 31 passing yards and 3 total touchdowns in No. 5 Clemson’s 55-10 victory over NC State Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.
“He has had a great year. He has had just one bad game. He played terrible at the North Carolina game,” Swinney said. “He played well the first four. It’s not like he had not played well. He just had a bad day. He has just responded and got back to being Travis Etienne and playing at a high level.”
Etienne’s 112 rushing yards marked the fifth straight game he eclipsed the century mark in his Clemson career, tying a school record held by Clemson greats Kenny Flowers and Raymond Priester.
In the five games since the Chapel Hill game, Etienne has rushed for 752 yards and scored eight touchdowns, while adding on 12 catches for 125 yards and two more scores.
In the process, he broke C.J. Spiller’s career touchdown record and James Davis’ career rushing touchdown mark, while becoming the third ACC player in history to run for 50 or more touchdowns in a career.
“I just thank my offensive line and teammates, and my coaches for trusting me and allowing me to be able to go out there and do what I do week in and week out,” Etienne said.
Etienne has 54 touchdowns overall and 50 on the ground in his less than three years at Clemson. He needs two more touchdowns to tie James Conner for the most touchdowns in ACC history.
“This is a great blessing and I just want to thank God because without him I would not be in this position,” Etienne said. “I just take it week by week and I try to be my best each and every week and just continue to get better so I can be able to go out there and play my best and possibly set records.”
Believe it or not, Etienne is within striking distance of catching the all-time record at Clemson. He needs just 329 yards to break Priester’s career rushing mark, which has stood for nearly 22 years.
Etienne, who ranks seventh nationally at 121.4 yards per game, could break the mark in the ACC Championship Game or even before.
But it is not all about the records and all the rushing yards for Etienne. It’s about becoming a complete running back.
His progression in this area was on display in Raleigh. His ability to read and pick up a defensive back blitzing from the slot, allowed Trevor Lawrence enough time to find Tee Higgins streaking wide open down the left side for a 33-yard touchdown.
He also caught a pass while falling backwards on an underthrown football for 27 yards, which set up Johns Simpson’s 1-yard run in the second quarter.
“We have gotten him involved in the passing game. I think he has worked really hard on that, and just kind of refocused after (the UNC game),” Swinney said. “I think the open date was good for him. He has been amazing. It is really amazing what that guy has been able to do.
“We have had some unbelievable backs around here and to see what he has done is pretty special. I am super proud of him. He has become a super smart player and has become a better all-around player.”
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