Un­der­dogs again, Clem­son vies for ti­tle

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS TUESDAY -

The Tigers started as the pre­sea­son No. 1. Yet, early on, looked ragged on of­fense and in par­tic­u­lar, at quar­ter­back. Last year’s fresh­man star Trevor Lawrence had thrown five in­ter­cep­tions his first three games — more than the four he’d thrown in all his na­tional cham­pi­onship win­ning de­but.

“Trevor threw a cou­ple of in­ter­cep­tions and that sort of be­came the nar­ra­tive,” Swin­ney said Mon­day.

The tip­ping point came in a 21-20 late es­cape at North Carolina on Sept. 28. De­spite the win, the Tigers fell from the top spot and kept slid­ing — they were No. 5 in the first CFP rank­ings.

“The story was more about who we played,” Swin­ney said. “Try­ing to cre­ate how bad (the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence is) rather than who we are.”

Clem­son, how­ever, kept rolling and de­feated each of their last eight op­po­nents head­ing into the Fi­esta Bowl by 29 points or more. Lawrence found his game again, too, with 26 touch­downs and just three in­ter­cep­tions in that stretch.

The quar­ter­back laughs off the early crit­i­cism, re­mem­ber­ing how last Jan­uary after his bravura cham­pi­onship game many com­men­ta­tors said he should with­draw from school and spend the next two years prep­ping for the NFL.

“Those same ones were telling me all the mis­takes I was mak­ing this sea­son,” Lawrence said.

Clem­son may have si­lenced a few doubters with its Fi­esta Bowl vic­tory. After fall­ing be­hind 16-0 in the open­ing half, the Tigers ral­lied for a dra­matic, fourthquar­ter vic­tory.

Lawrence led a 94-yard, four-play drive that ended with Travis Eti­enne’s 35-yard touch­down catch with 1:49 left to put Clem­son ahead for good.

The Tigers ended Ohio State’s come­back on safety Nolan Turner’s in­ter­cep­tion in the end zone in the fi­nal sec­onds.

Swin­ney said his play­ers shook off ad­ver­sity to reach their fourth na­tional ti­tle game in five sea­sons.

The way it ended “was the best part of it,” Swin­ney said. “To have to go 94 yards against the best de­fense in the coun­try to get the lead and then you got to stop the No. 1 scor­ing of­fense in the coun­try to win.”

Smith and Lawrence be­lieve Clem­son’s ex­pe­ri­ence in the ti­tle game is an edge LSU can’t match.

The fifth-year se­nior has been part of all four even if was a never-used red­shirt fresh­man in Clem­son’s 45-40 loss to Alabama fol­low­ing the 2015 sea­son.

“We have guys who have been in that mo­ment and can draw back on Smith said.

Lawrence is com­fort­able with his team’s ex­pe­ri­ence, al­though he does not see it as a fac­tor when it comes to slow­ing down top-ranked LSU.

“Even though they haven’t played in the na­tional cham­pi­onship (game) be­fore,” Lawrence said of his op­po­nent, “they’re not think­ing about that.”

Swin­ney is giv­ing his team a cou­ple of days off — the Tigers got back from Phoenix late Sun­day — to re­cu­per­ate and re­cover from a phys­i­cal matchup with the Buck­eyes.

Any lapses against Ohio State will have to be cleaned up in Clem­son’s fi­nal set of prac­tices be­fore taking on LSU, which had a dom­i­nant show­ing from quar­ter­back Joe Bur­row in the 63-28 dis­man­tling of Ok­la­homa in the Peach Bowl. that,”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.