Top-ranked Clemson struggled in the first three quarters in its 47-21 win over Syracuse on Saturday.
The Tigers (6-0, 5-0 ACC) looked sluggish and uninspired for much of the contest but found a will to win at the end of the game.
Travis Etienne had a hitch in his giddy-up throughout the game and exited the contest in the third quarter for examination in the locker room. But the senior running back returned and willed his way into the end zone for a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game on ice.
Etienne fought through his pain and finished the game with 16 carries for 93 yards and three touchdowns.
He first reached the end zone on a 25-yard carry that gave Clemson a 17-0 lead. Etienne left the game at the beginning of the third quarter with an apparent leg injury but returned at the start of the fourth quarter.
On his first carry after his returnin the fourth quarter, Etienne powered his way into the end zone with a nine-yard run that gave the Tigers 40-21 lead that put the game out of reach. He finished the day with a one-yard carry that gave Clemson its final lead of 47-21.
The Louisiana native fell short of Ted Brown’s ACC record by 37 yards but tied the FBS record for most career games scoring a touchdown with 41 to match San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey.
Etienne already owns the ACC career record for rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns. He also owns the single season record for total touchdowns and shares the record for rushing touchdowns in a season with former Pittsburgh running back James Connor. He is on pace to set several more career records at Clemson, the ACC and in FBS history.
Etienne hopes to surpass Brown next week as Clemson hosts Boston College at noon on ABC.