CLEM­SON’S BIG OF­FEN­SIVE STARS

The Island Packet - - Front Page - BY PETE IACOBELLI

Trevor Lawrence and Travis Eti­enne are raw and aw­fully tal­ented. To­gether, they an­chor Clem­son’s of­fense.

Trevor Lawrence and Travis Eti­enne are young, a bit raw and aw­fully tal­ented.

To­gether, they an­chor Clem­son’s high-oc­tane of­fense and have helped the No. 2 Tigers get into in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off. Now, Lawrence, a fresh­man quar­ter­back, and Eti­enne are hunt­ing a na­tional ti­tle.

“We’ve had goals set out for the sea­son, ob­vi­ously, to win cham­pi­onships,” Lawrence said. “We want more than just the ACC cham­pi­onship.”

The duo – tail­back Eti­enne is ACC player of the year and Lawrence is ACC rookie of the year – have com­ple­mented each other dur­ing Clem­son’s 13-0 sea­son. Sev­eral times the Tigers have leaned on one or the other to pro­vide a spark.

In a Septem­ber game against Syra­cuse, Lawrence was in­ef­fec­tive and had to leave the con­test with an in­jury in the sec­ond quar­ter as the Orange built a dou­ble-digit lead. It was Eti­enne who ral­lied Clem­son with 203 yards and three touch­downs in a 27-23 vic­tory.

When Eti­enne strug­gled to find run­ning room at Bos­ton Col­lege in Novem­ber with just 78 yards, Lawrence threw for one score and ran for an­other to power the Tigers to a 27-7 vic­tory.

Then in the ACC ti­tle game, Eti­enne was sent the tone en route to be­ing named MVP when he went 75 yards on Clem­son’s first play in a 42-10 vic­tory over Pitt for the Tigers’

fourth con­sec­u­tive league cham­pi­onship. Eti­enne fin­ished with 156 yards rush­ing as Lawrence, de­spite a pair of touch­down throws to Tee Higgins, was off tar­get much of the game.

Their team­mates un­der­stand they’ll need the best of both to win an­other na­tional ti­tle.

Higgins had talked with Eti­enne sev­eral times about start­ing fast be­fore the game against the Pan­thers.

“I told him, ‘First play, take it to the crib.’ That’s ex­actly what he did,” Higgins said.

It hasn’t been a smooth jour­ney for ei­ther Lawrence or Eti­enne.

Lawrence ar­rived at Clem­son amid tremen­dous hype, the top quar­ter­back prospect who had sur­passed the Ge­or­gia state high school marks of ex-Tiger na­tional cham­pi­onship passer De­shaun Wat­son. Four quar­ter­backs, in­clud­ing last year’s starter who opened the first four games this sea­son in Kelly Bryant, trans­ferred when it be­came clear they’d los­ing play­ing time to Lawrence.

For the fresh­man, it was dif­fi­cult see­ing team­mates, friends and men­tors go and know­ing he couldn’t let down the Tigers af­ter they placed im­mense trust in his abil­i­ties.

“There were plenty of bumps,” Lawrence said. “I’m just go­ing to keep work­ing hard and do­ing what I’m asked.”

Eti­enne was one of Clem­son’s fi­nal re­cruit­ing gets in 2017, a gan­gly, happy-go-lucky – some­times aloof – young­ster who had plenty to learn about the col­lege game.

Clem­son run­ning backs coach Tony El­liott, also co-of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, been at times frus­trated, over­joyed and skep­ti­cal at Eti­enne’s progress.

“It’s taken a long time for him to get here,” El­liott said.

A year ago, Eti­enne re­lied too much on his break­away abil­ity in­stead of pa­tiently finding holes to ex­tend runs, El­liott said. Eti­enne’s vi­sion and abil­ity to read the line of scrim­mage has vastly im­proved, his po­si­tion coach said, lead­ing to 1,463 yards and a Clem­son sin­gle-sea­son record 21 rush­ing touch­downs.

Eti­enne cred­its Clem­son’s ro­ta­tion of backs (Tavien Feaster, Adam Choice, Lyn-J Dixon) and of­fen­sive line for the Tigers putting up a sin­gle­sea­son record of 46 rush­ing TDs and 3,377 yards on the ground, the school’s sec­ond high­est one-year to­tal since the 1978 team gained 3,469 yards rush­ing.

“You want to go out and lay it on the line for them,” Eti­enne said of the of­fense.

The Tigers (CFP No. 2) will face third-ranked Notre Dame (12-0, CFP No. 3) in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29 for the right to play for the na­tional ti­tle. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is aware much of his game plan in­volves slow­ing Lawrence and Eti­enne.

“Cer­tainly, their of­fen­sive fire­power is out­stand­ing,” Kelly said. “Eti­enne at the run­ning back po­si­tion, great depth. We all know about Trevor Lawrence and what he can do at the quar­ter­back po­si­tion.”

Lawrence is glad to have the speedy Eti­enne in his back­field.

“We’ve had some weird sit­u­a­tions, but 13-0, you can’t ex­pect any bet­ter than this,” Lawrence said.

MIKE MCCARN AP

Run­ning back Travis Eti­enne, left, and quar­ter­back Trevor Lawrence (16) lead Clem­son’s high-oc­tane of­fense.

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