During the season, he showed glimpses of what he could do, but when Clemson really needed him to run the football in last week’s Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State, Trevor Lawrence showed what kind of weapon he really can be.
With the Buckeyes’ keying on Travis Etienne, the sophomore quarterback was cut loose in the running game, especially in the first half. At first, it was just a run here or there to loosen up the Ohio State defense, then, with time winding down in the first half, co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott called a quarterback draw.
The Buckeyes were playing press-man coverage with a safety deep and had just one linebacker in the middle who came on a stunt, leaving the middle of the field wide open. Lawrence ran through a gapping hole, made the safety miss, got a good block from tight end Braden Galloway on the nickel back and then sprinted the remaining 67 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
“Yeah, he’s 6’6″, 220 pounds, and he’s strong. He’s a great runner,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “He just ran a 67-yard touchdown against Ohio State and ran away from them, so I don’t know what else you need to say about that. They’ve got a bunch of dudes that can run on that defense. That’s what I’ve said all year long. He’s as confident in his legs as he is his arm, and he’s grown into that. But he can move. He can flat-out move.”
Lawrence finished the game with a team-high 107 yards. His rushing yardage was a career-high, as was his 16 carries. His touchdown run was his eighth of the year.
“That’s really been the case all year. He’s really made a lot of big plays with his legs, scrambling around, extending plays, and then also just running it when he needed to,” Swinney said. “But he made some big plays. Had a couple scramble plays and obviously the quarterback draw was a huge play for us and kept him honest just enough to set up a few things.”
Lawrence’s ability to run the ball set up the game-winning touchdown, when he faked the quarterback run, jumped up and hit Etienne over the middle, who ran the remaining 34 yards for the winning score with 1:49 to play in the game.
“We’re going to have to play better across the board, again. But it’s all about winning the game, and I thought that that was the best part of it,” Swinney said. “Had to go 94 yards against the best defense in the country to get the lead, and then you’ve got to stop the No. 1 scoring offense in the country to win it, and that’s the way [you win] a championship game.
“Trevor led us down the field, did an amazing job, just in four plays. Super proud of him, and we’ve got one more to try to go get.”
Clemson will play LSU on Jan. 13 in the College Football Playoff National Championship from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans at 8 p.m., ET.
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