Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly does not expect Clemson to do anything different with Trevor Lawrence as the Tigers’ quarterback in the ACC Championship Game.
Lawrence missed the last meeting between the two College Football Playoff contenders when the Irish knocked off Clemson in double-overtime on Dec. 7. The Tigers’ quarterback watched the game from the sideline as he finished up his COVID-19 protocols after testing positive for the virus on Oct. 29.
Even without its Heisman hopeful, the third-ranked Tigers nearly took down No. 2 Notre Dame as backup quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei threw for 439 yards and two touchdowns while completing 29-of-44 passes with no interceptions in the Nov. 7 meeting.
The freshman’s 439 yards are the most passing yards ever thrown against Notre Dame.
“The system is the system that they run,” Kelly said.
But Kelly isn’t naïve to the situation that Uiagalelei was not hundred percent and Clemson intentionally did not run him in the quarterback-run game. That is where Kelly does see Clemson changing things up with a healthy Lawrence, who runs the RPO and the quarterback-run game as well as anyone.
With Uiagalelei playing with a sore shoulder, Notre Dame (10-0, 9-0 ACC) keyed on running Travis Etienne, who ESPN’s Maria Taylor reported last Saturday got banged up in the last meeting and is just now getting back to hundred percent.
The Irish held Etienne to a career low 28 yards on the ground, while the Tigers overall were held to 34 yards on 33 carries. The 34 rushing yards were the lowest output for a Dabo Swinney coached team since 2011.
However, Kelly knows holding the Clemson running game down will not be as easy with Lawrence in the lineup.
“There may be a little bit more activation of quarterback runs, but the scheme upfront, we’re well aware of what that scheme is in terms of the quarterback run scheme,” he said. “Just being a little bit more locked into quarterback runs perhaps would be the only slight difference.”
Against Virginia Tech, Lawrence had 42 yards on seven carries and had two rushing touchdowns. Both touchdowns came off zone reads after he read the defensive end crash down to stop Etienne. Lawrence’s touchdown runs were from 17 and seven yards out.
Clemson and Notre Dame will kick off next Saturday (Dec. 19) at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
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