It is that time of the year.
It is that time when Clemson adds an element to its offense that it does not show until it gets into the postseason.
What is it?
The quarterback run, of course.
Going back to the days of Deshaun Watson, Clemson seemingly saves the quarterback run until it gets to the ACC Championship Game, and then, just like clockwork, it releases the weapon which in turn takes the Tigers’ offense to another level.
That is what Clemson (10-1) did last weekend against Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game. It released quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who carried the ball a season-high 14 times for 90 yards in a 34-10 victory over the Irish.
Lawrence, who had a 34-yard touchdown run against the Irish, has proved time and time again that when a defense gives him those looks, he is going to take it. His legs become just as much of a strength as his cannon for an arm.
“You have to honor him. It does not matter if we are running the ball or throwing the ball, you have to honor the guy because you know he will pull it and he will get ten or fifteen yards with no problem,” center Cade Stewart said.
Or he might just take it 67 yards for a touchdown, like he did last year against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Last year, Lawrence caught the Buckeyes by surprise. One might think they will be looking for it a little more when they face Clemson in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.
“He may be 6-6, but the dude can fly,” Stewart said. “Those are the kinds of things he brings to the table. He can hurt you anyway you want it and that is what makes him such a great football player.”
And with the threat of Lawrence running the ball, he opens things up for running back Travis Etienne. Case in point, he ran for 124 yards on 10 carries against Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game, including a 44-yard touchdown.
When Lawrence did not play in the regular-season matchup with the Irish on Nov. 7, Etienne ran for just 28 yards … the worst game of his career.
“It is tough when you have two of the best players in the country behind you, it makes my job pretty easy, really. I know that they are handling their business, like I am handling mine,” Stewart said. “So, as a defensive person, I am sure it is tough trying to handle 16 and when you handle 16, here comes 9. I would not want to be a defensive coordinator trying to scheme up against Clemson’s offense, that is for sure.”