Ohio State head coach Ryan Day knows all too well how effective Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence can be not only as a passer, but also running the football.
Lawrence used his legs to dismantle Day’s Buckeyes on the ground in last season’s College Football Playoff semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 28. In addition to throwing for 259 yards and two touchdowns, Lawrence rushed for 107 yards on 16 carries, including a pivotal 67-yard touchdown run late in the first half that helped propel the Tigers to an eventual 29-23 victory.
Looking back on it, Day says he was not shocked by the ability and athleticism Lawrence showed as a runner in the CFP semifinal matchup against his team.
“No, it didn’t really surprise me all that much,” Day said on Sunday during the Sugar Bowl head coach media teleconference. “I know that he had a great day against us and opened up and ran away from some of our guys, which that was very impressive as well.”
Lawrence finished the 2019 season with 563 yards rushing and nine rushing touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards per carry in 15 games. In the nine games he has played this season, the star signal-caller has run for 211 yards on 58 attempts (3.6 average) and scored seven touchdowns on the ground.
In the ACC Championship Game on Saturday, Lawrence recorded 90 yards rushing on 14 carries and had a 34-yard touchdown run against Notre Dame, two weeks after rushing for 41 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ previous game at Virginia Tech on Dec. 5.
Of course, this is the time of year when Lawrence tends to ratchet things up in the running game, with the games carrying increased significance and the stakes being higher.
“In terms of Lawrence’s ability to run, he’s very, very athletic,” Day said. “When they need him to run, they’re smart about how they do it.”
Day knows his defense has a big challenge ahead of it in trying to slow down Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne and Clemson’s explosive offense when the second-ranked Tigers and No. 3 Buckeyes square off in the playoff for the second straight year, this time at the Sugar Bowl semifinal in New Orleans on New Year’s Day.
Ohio State is tied for 24th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 21.0 points per game, while Clemson ranks fourth in college football in scoring offense (44.9 points per game).
“I think he and Etienne are two of the most dynamic players in college football and probably in the history of college football,” Day said of Clemson’s elite quarterback-running back tandem. “And do I think that experience matters? Absolutely. I think that the fact that a lot of those guys played in that game (the Fiesta Bowl last season) and having the experience of playing in that game is critical, and I think that’s why these Clemson teams have won so many games is because they’ve played in this environment before, which hopefully also plays in our favor is that we were there last year. We didn’t come home with the win, but we gained some experience there, and hopefully that pays off dividends.”
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