Every time Ed Orgeron sees a highlight of Travis Etienne breaking off a long run for a touchdown, the LSU head coach gets sick to his stomach.
“He is the one who got away,” Orgeron said during his national championship teleconference on Tuesday.
Orgeron is hoping Clemson’s record setting running back does not prevent LSU from winning a national championship on Jan. 13 when the two Tigers meet up in the College Football Playoff National Championship in New Orleans. Etienne’s from Jennings, Louisiana, a small town about 90 miles west of Baton Rouge.
“Every time I heard about Clemson play or every time I see him having success, I am sick to my stomach,” LSU’s head coach said. “Obviously, we like our running backs and we have great running backs here, but we wanted Travis Etienne at the end, but it was too little, too late.”
Instead, Etienne signed with Clemson and has since become, arguably, the greatest running back in Clemson history. He already is the ACC’s and Clemson’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (55) and total touchdowns (61). He set the Tigers’ single season record for rushing yards last year with 1,658 yards, as well as set the ACC record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 24 and tied the single season record for total touchdowns with 26.
Now, the two-time ACC Player of the Year, needs seven yards in the national championship game to pass Raymond Priester’s career record of 3,966 yards, which he established at Clemson from 1994-’97.
How did LSU miss on Etienne?
“I was an assistant here and Travis kept on coming up. He kept on coming up and for some reason or another we never offered him a scholarship,” Orgeron said. “Then after I became the interim coach, we had a couple of players that we had been recruiting for a while and we thought we were going to get them and felt if we offered someone else, we may lose them. And then we got shutout.
“I offered Travis really late. As the interim, I had a home visit with him. I told him how much we wanted him, but it was too little, too late. He had made up his mind already.”
Obviously, Etienne has played a big role in Clemson’s success the last three seasons. The Tigers are 40-2 in games he has played in during his career, including 29 straight wins. In last week’s Fiesta Bowl victory over Ohio State, Etienne became the first Clemson running back in nine years to catch two touchdown passes in a game, including the 34-yard game-winner with 1:49 to play.
He finished the game with 98 yards on three catches. Though the Buckeyes’ held him to 36 yards on 10 carries, he still had an 8-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He had a 53-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in the third quarter, as well.
“It is something we should have done a better job of. We should have recruited him at an earlier age like we have all Louisiana backs and keep him in the state. He is the one who got away.” Orgeron said.
Clemson is glad he did.
Clemson is going back to the national championship game after once again winning the Fiesta Bowl over Ohio State. Get your official national championship and Fiesta Bowl champs gear right here!