When he looked back at his team’s loss to LSU in the national championship, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney did not get too worked up on the fact the Tigers stopped running the football.
Clemson ran the ball just 10 times in the second half for 50 yards, after running for 110 yards on 18 carries in the first. Running back Travis Etienne had just five carries for 14 yards in the second half after running it 10 times for 64 yards in the first two quarters.
Swinney blamed the Tigers’ lack of running the ball in the second half on game situations and their inability to convert on third down. Clemson was just 1-for-11 on third down conversions in the 42-25 loss at the Superdome in New Orleans. It was the worst third-down performance in the Dabo Swinney era.
“We had a little bit of both,” Swinney said last week in regard to the offense’s lack of a running game against LSU. “Again, if we were more consistent on third down then there would have been more there. Then all of a sudden you get into the fourth quarter and the spread is different.”
Instead, Clemson went into the fourth quarter down 10 points and LSU added another touchdown with 12:08 to play to extend its lead to 17 points, which forced Clemson to abandon its running game.
“We probably got away from some of the base things that we do,” Swinney said. “I don’t have any regrets. None! Zero! I just wish we could have found a way to get it done.”
Despite the disappointing second half against LSU, Clemson still finished the season averaging 240.4 yards per game, which ranked 13th nationally.
When spring practice opens on Feb. 26, the Tigers will welcome Etienne back, the school’s all-time leading rusher. He decided after the national championship game to return to Clemson for his senior year, instead of going pro.
Etienne has already rushed for 4,038 yards in his career and is in reach of breaking just about every ACC record for a running back. He already owns the conference record for career rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns.
In his first three seasons, Etienne is averaging 1,346 yards per season. If he matches his season average, it would him put him near 5,400 career rushing yards. That would shatter Ted Brown’s all-time ACC record of 4,602 yards which he set from 1975-’78.
Etienne already owns just about every Clemson rushing record in the book. The 5-10, 210-pound running back is just 565 yards shy of breaking the ACC’s all-time rushing record and 795 yards short of becoming the all-time leader in yards from scrimmage.
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