Travis Etienne battled cramps during top-ranked Clemson’s game against Syracuse on Saturday and missed most of the third quarter while receiving IV fluids in the locker room.
But the Tigers’ star running back put his toughness and grit on display, returning to action in the fourth quarter and scoring a pair of touchdowns to help his team close out its 47-21 victory over the Orange at Death Valley.
Knowing the type of player and person Etienne is, Clemson offensive coordinator and running backs coach Tony Elliott was not surprised to see him fight through the cramping and come back to make an impact in the contest.
“I just think that’s who Travis is,” Elliott said. “Obviously, a lot of people outside the program have a perception of him as what a superstar should be like. But Travis is the exact opposite. He’s a team guy, he’ll do what you ask him to do. He wants to win. He’s not necessarily coming back because he wants to score touchdowns, he’s coming back because he wants to produce and help put his team in a position to win.
“So, doesn’t surprise me. It’s kind of the standard that we’ve set, the expectation for him, and just happy that he was able to go in in the third quarter, come back and bring a little bit of a spark to us to help us find a way to win.”
Etienne, who finished with 86 yards rushing and a career-high-tying three rushing scores, attributed his cramping issues to not eating enough breakfast prior to the 12 p.m. kickoff – a mistake he says he won’t make next week before Clemson’s noon game against Boston College at Memorial Stadium.
“This morning I didn’t eat breakfast,” Etienne said. “I got up, got a little bowl of Frosted Flakes and just hit the road. I’ve definitely got to, next time, get me some eggs, some sausages, eat well because you see what happens when I try to eat Frosted Flakes and just come out there and play a full game. So, I’ve definitely got to eat better in the morning next weekend.”
After exiting the locker room and re-entering the game, Etienne found the end zone from 9 yards out to give Clemson a comfortable 40-21 lead early in the fourth quarter, then provided the game’s final margin on a 1-yard touchdown plunge with 10:45 remaining.
“It was just great being back out there with the guys,” Etienne said, “and just being able to provide a source of energy and being able to make plays in order to help the team win.”
Etienne also recorded a 25-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and in the process passed Woodrow Dantzler (68) for sole possession of fourth on Clemson’s all-time leaderboard for career touchdown responsibility. Etienne is fourth on that list despite not having a passing touchdown to his credit in a category that credits both touchdowns scored and touchdowns thrown.
With his second touchdown of the game, Etienne became only the seventh FBS player since 1956 to amass 70 career total touchdowns, and he is now tied with former San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey for the FBS record for most career games scoring a touchdown of any kind (41).
After the game, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney praised Etienne for his gritty performance and will to get back in the game even when he wasn’t at full strength.
“Nobody’s going to ever question Travis’s toughness,” Swinney said. “I mean, he’s as tough as they come, and committed. I think he had 19 or 20 touches and missed a whole quarter, so he got some good work in. And again, it was hot out there. Unfortunately, he cramped up and they had to take him in and give him an IV. But as he was leaving, I heard him talking to the trainer saying, ‘I’m going to be able to come back, right?’
“I didn’t know when he was going to come back, so it was a big shot in the arm for us when he got back out there at the beginning of the fourth quarter and made a couple of nice plays for us. At the end of the day, he finished up with three nice touchdowns and a good day’s work.”
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