SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence took a lot of heat early in the season for the interceptions he threw.
But despite the narrative out there that says he has taken a step back in 2019, Lawrence does not feel like he has had a sophomore slump.
“I look back and see the things that I’ve gotten better at this year,” Lawrence said Tuesday during his Fiesta Bowl press conference at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn. “There’s been a lot of plays last year that have been good plays, but I think just this year, I’ve been a lot more effective. The way the story was written last year, no one really expected much of me as a freshman, so I couldn’t really do any wrong. So I think this year, everything’s been kind of critiqued and nitpicked. It’s a different narrative, but I think I’ve been playing a lot better this year actually.”
Lawrence burst onto the scene as a freshman last season when he was nearly flawless, throwing for 3,280 yards and 30 touchdowns with only four interceptions while becoming the first freshman starting quarterback to lead his team to a national title since Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway in 1985.
This season, heading into Saturday’s College Football Playoff semifinal matchup against Ohio State at the Fiesta Bowl, Lawrence has completed 68.8 percent of his passes – better than the 65.2 completion percentage he had a season ago – for 3,172 yards and 34 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
“It’s been good,” Lawrence said of his season to this point. “I’ve gotten a lot better than I was last year, and just all the little parts of my game that I wanted to improve — whether it’s accuracy on the deep throws or just pocket presence, any of those things — I feel like I have gotten better at.
“So, for me it’s been a success. It might not sound like that when you look anywhere else, but for me, I feel like I’ve had a really good year.”
Partly because he set the bar so high a year ago, Lawrence was overly criticized at the beginning of the season when he was picked off five times in Clemson’s first three games and had eight interceptions in the first seven games.
However, Lawrence has not thrown a pick since the first quarter of the Tigers’ win over Louisville on Oct. 19, and since Oct. 1, he leads the nation (FBS) in passing efficiency.
Asked what changed for him after the early season interceptions, Lawrence said for him “the biggest thing is just not trying to do too much.”
“At the beginning of the year, I think I did make some good plays obviously, but just for the most part not trying to do too much and just every play taking what the defense gives me and not trying to throw a touchdown every play — just kind of getting a drive going and then not being afraid to throw the ball away. All those things are really important and taking care of the ball is the most important part of the game. If you keep the ball, it gives you a way higher percentage to win. So, just stuff that I’ve learned throughout the year and gotten a lot better at.”
Specifically, Lawrence believes he is a lot smarter in his second season as a starter.
“I know a lot more football,” he said. “I’ve played a lot more. Just been in a lot of different situations, so I can pull from that. As far as decision-making, I feel I’m doing a better job this year besides a few plays. Overall, I feel like I’m making a lot more plays out on the field and really giving my guys a chance to make the catch more than I was last year.”
Lawrence admits it has been difficult at times to stay positive about his performance this year with the media negativity and public perception, though he knows he has improved when he turns on the film and sees what he has done on the field.
“It’s hard to keep that perspective, but it’s really important because everyone’s saying something else,” Lawrence said. “But really I look at it and I watch it and I know what we’re doing in our system and I’m like, ‘I’m playing better.’ I had a few mistakes early, but it can be frustrating. But it’s just really important to know what you’re doing, and I know that I’m doing things the right way, and just every week trying to get better.”
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