ACC’s 2-time Player of the Year needs 157 yards to become the school’s all-time leading rusher
Dabo Swinney just chuckles sarcastically when he gets asked about Travis Etienne being left off as a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the nation’s best running back.
“If you watch the tape, if there is a running back award, and listen there are great backs and I am not saying anything about winning it, but if there is a running back award and Travis Etienne is not a finalist for it, then they should not have the award,” the Clemson head coach said.
Luckily for Etienne they still have an ACC Player of the Year Award, which the Clemson running back won for a second straight year earlier this week. Etienne became the first Clemson player to win the conference’s top honor in back-to-back years since Steve Fuller did the same in 1977 and 1978. Etienne was also named the ACC’s Offensive Player of the Year for a second straight time.
Why Etienne is not a finalist for the Doak Walker Award? No one knows. But people do know who Travis Etienne is, especially his offensive line. Guys like Jackson Carman, John Simpson, Sean Pollard, Gage Cervenka and Tremayne Anchrum, they are amazed by Etienne’s ability almost every time he touches the football.
“There are too many moments to say,” Cervenka said. “There are times when you think he is about to get tackled and someway and somehow, he breaks off of it and takes it for forty-plus more yards. I’m like, ‘How did he just do that?’
“It’s like I am walking over there to try and pick him up and all of sudden he is in the end zone. It is like you blink and he is gone. There have been a ton of those plays.”
Those plays have allowed Etienne to break almost every major rushing record at Clemson and in the ACC. Last year, he set a new single season rushing record (1,658 yards) while also breaking the school and the ACC’s single-season mark for rushing touchdowns (24). He also set a new record for total touchdowns (26) and tied the ACC record for a single season.
Earlier this year, Etienne broke Clemson’s record for career rushing touchdowns and later total touchdowns, before setting new marks in both categories in last week’s win against South Carolina. Etienne now has 57 career touchdowns and 53 rushing scores.
With other major records now in the rearview, there is just one the junior from Jennings, Louisiana can catch, and it’s the one his teammates want him to get more than any other. Etienne needs just 157 yards to break Raymond Priester’s all-time rushing record at Clemson, a mark that has stood since Priester rushed for 3,966 yards from 1994-’97.
“Oh, he will. He will definitely accomplish that,” Cervenka said confidently. “It is not an ‘if’ it is just a ‘when.’ It’s huge and I guess it kind of speaks to us as an offensive line. We are playing lights out. We have had a few mistakes here, mentally, but I think we are playing very physical ball.
“It is nice. It’s for Travis, but it is kind of an accomplishment for us because of how we are playing. It is huge. We’re proud. I guess, we are kind of blessed to have a running back like that behind us.”
Etienne’s offensive line would love nothing more than to get him the record Saturday when they play Virginia in the ACC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
“For me, it will be a big landmark,” Anchrum said. “Especially kind of coming up with him through his career. Having a hand in that directly, it will be a big accomplishment for us, too, as an offensive line. We take pride in getting guys to the next level and having the success that they have.
“We all are shooting for Travis to make it and we are going to do everything in our ability to make sure he passes that goal.”
As Etienne breaks another record it seems with each passing week, Swinney laughs more at the decision of the committee that makes up the Doak Walker Award. This year Etienne is averaging 115.5 yards per game and is on pace to break his own record for rushing yards in a season.
He needs just 272 yards to pass his own mark. He also needs just two touchdowns to become the first Clemson player in history to record multiple seasons with at least 20 touchdowns.
So far this year, Etienne has rushed for 1,386 yards and scored 16 touchdowns, while also catching a career high 28 passes for 289 yards and two more scores. He is averaging a nation-high 8.2 yards per carry and 10.3 yards per reception.
“Take all the great backs and sit down and really watch the tapes,” Swinney said. “You tell me that guy should not be a finalist for the (Doak Walker) award. Give me a break! It is a joke!”
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