Lawrence throws 4 TDs, No. 3 Clem­son routs Ga Tech 49-21

The Standard Journal - - SPORTS - By Paul New­berry AP Sports Writer

AT­LANTA — With plenty of fam­ily and friends cheer­ing him on at his first col­lege road game, Trevor Lawrence cer­tainly played like a start­ing quar­ter­back.

Now, the Clem­son Tigers have to de­cide if it’s time to push the ta­lented fresh­man to the top of the depth chart.

Lawrence claimed a lead­ing role in Clem­son’s quar­ter­back ro­ta­tion, com­ing off the bench to throw four touch­down passes as the No. 3 Tigers romped past Ge­or­gia Tech 49-21 on Satur­day.

“I thought I played well,” Lawrence said. “I don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen. I’m just go­ing to keep at­tack­ing every week, try­ing to do all I can to help the team.”

Af­ter starter Kelly Bryant pro­duced just 13 yards and one first down on Clem­son’s first two pos­ses­sions, Lawrence en­tered the game early in the se­cond quar­ter. The young­ster, a na­tive of nearby Cartersville, quickly guided the Tigers on a seven-play, 74-yard drive capped by a 17-yard touch­down pass to Hunter Ren­frow that made it 14-0.

Lawrence fin­ished with 176 yards on 13-of-18 pass­ing for the Tigers (4-0, 1-0 At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence), also con­nect­ing with Justyn Ross for a 53-yard score , Travis Eti­enne on a 3-yard touch­down just be­fore half­time and Tee Hig­gins for a 30-yard TD in the clos­ing min­utes.

Bryant was 6 of 10 pass­ing for 56 yards. The se­nior quar­ter­back who guided Clem­son to the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off last sea­son clearly played se­cond fid­dle on this day.

Is that go­ing to be­come a per­ma­nent ar­range­ment?

Coach Dabo Swin­ney wasn’t say­ing.

“We’re go­ing to en­joy it tonight,” he in­sisted. “We’re not go­ing to set depth charts here in the postgame press con­fer­ence.”

It was a thor­oughly dis­mal per­for­mance by Ge­or­gia Tech (1-3, 0-2), which is off to its worst start since 2003 and sure to face in­creas­ing ques­tions about Paul John­son’s coach­ing fu­ture.

The Yel­low Jack­ets fum­bled eight times, re­cov­er­ing seven of them but giv­ing up a touch­down when Clelin Fer­rell fell on a loose ball in the end zone for Clem­son’s first TD . The home team com­pleted just three passes and was held to 146 yards on the ground — not even close to its na­tion-high rush­ing av­er­age of 392.7 com­ing into the game.

“We got our tails kicked,” John­son said bluntly.

Ge­or­gia Tech’s lone score of the first half came af­ter Lawrence tried to set up a screen pass out of the back­field, only to hit an of­fen­sive line­man in the back with the short throw . Des­mond Branch picked off the de­flected ball, re­turn­ing the gift in­ter­cep­tion to the Tigers 23.

Four plays later, TaQuon Mar­shall scored on an 11-yard run to cut Clem­son’s lead to 21-7, giv­ing Ge­or­gia Tech a glim­mer of hope with just over 2 min­utes left in the first half.

Lawrence quickly snuffed out any thoughts of an up­set.

Guid­ing Clem­son down the field like a vet­eran, Lawrence com­pleted six passes for 54 yards — shoveling a toss to Eti­enne with five sec­onds left in the half to re­store a com­mand­ing three-touch­down edge be­fore the Tigers headed to the locker room.

Many Ge­or­gia Tech fans didn’t bother re­turn­ing for the se­cond half on a blis­ter­ing day with tem­per­a­tures in the low 90s, leav­ing a sta­dium that al­ready was packed with huge swaths of orange-clad fans look­ing like an At­lanta ver­sion of Death Val­ley.

Clem­son: All eyes are on the quar­ter­back po­si­tion. The only ques­tion seems to be how long it will take for Lawrence to be­come the undis­puted starter. The coach­ing staff was im­pressed with his deci- sion mak­ing, and co-of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Tony El­liott said he’s eager for Lawrence to show off his run­ning abil­ity. Mean­while, the de­fense left lit­tle doubt that it’s one of the na­tion’s best, largely sti­fling the Yel­low Jack­ets’ op­tion of­fense while play­ing ev­ery­one on the ros­ter.

Ge­or­gia Tech: A team that had hopes of con­tend­ing for a di­vi­sion ti­tle is now in fullscale cri­sis mode. Since win­ning the Orange Bowl and fin­ish­ing No. 8 na­tion­ally dur­ing the 2014 sea­son, the Yel­low Jack­ets are 18-22 over­all and 9-17 in the league. The fan base is grum­bling and ath­letic di­rec­tor Todd Stans­bury surely took note of all the empty seats at Bobby Dodd Sta­dium, even on a day when the vis­it­ing team brought a huge con­tin­gent to At­lanta.

Ge­or­gia Tech may have been the na­tion’s top rush­ing team, but they were no match for the Tigers.

Eti­enne rushed for 122 yards and a touch­down on just 11 car­ries, while Tavien Feaster chipped in with 75 yards and a TD on eight car­ries.

Clem­son fin­ished with 248 yards on the ground, av­er­ag­ing nearly 7 yards per at­tempt.

Clem­son line­backer Chad Smith was ejected late in the third quar­ter for tar­get­ing.

Smith doled out a hel­met- to-hel­met hit on Mar­shall, send­ing the Ge­or­gia Tech quar­ter­back to the turf as he was com­plet­ing his first pass of the game.

The penalty was up­held af­ter a video re­view, mean­ing Smith will also have to sit out the first half of Clem­son’s next game.

Ste­wart / AP-Mike

Clem­son wide re­ceiver Hunter Ren­frow makes a catch against Ge­or­gia Tech de­fen­sive back Tariq Car­pen­ter dur­ing the first half of the game on Satur­day in At­lanta.

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