Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

October 02, 2018 at 9:21 pm.

Tigers crank up the ground game

With starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence sidelined with a neck injury in the second half of Clemson’s game against Syracuse last week, the Tigers’ offense turned to its best alternative — the running game.

Trailing 23-13 in the final quarter, Clemson ground out a 27-23 victory by handing the ball to sophomore running back Travis Etienne time and again. He scored the game-winning touchdown with 41 seconds left to cap a 94-yard drive that includes runs on 12 of 13 plays.

“We imposed our will,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “That last drive, to be able to go 94 yards with the game on the line when everybody knew we were running it…that was special.

“In the past we’ve had to lose the game to have a learning moment. Hopefully that’s what today was about. We have a lot to learn, but the biggest thing we learned today is our guys have a will to win.”

The victory improved No. 4 Clemson to 5-0 overall (2-0 in the ACC) and boosted a rejuvenated rushing attack that amassed 293 yards, including 203 by Etienne, who ranks second in the NCAA’s FBS with an average of 8.14 yards per carry.

Lawrence, who sustained his injury while falling down at the end of a scramble, returned to practice this week and is expected to return to the starting lineup at Wake Forest.

“I definitely expect him to be able to play,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t.”

Swinney also said that the Tigers aren’t going to change their offensive philosophy.

“We run our quarterbacks — that’s what we do,” Swinney said.

Still, he wants Lawrence to learn to “play smarter” sooner rather than later.

“I love his effort, but there’s a time for that and a time for living for another play,” Swinney said. “Trevor can move. He can navigate the pocket very well. That’s one of his best attributes. He’s got the ability to make you pay. He can extend plays. It was just a bad decision on his part.”