By Terrance Turner
The Clemson Tigers haven’t lost a football game in over a year.
Today was no exception. Clemson, led by quarterback Trevor Lawrence, overcame several turnovers and a dogged opposition to win today’s match versus Georgia Tech. In their highest-scoring road game in a century, the Clemson Tigers steamrolled the Yellow Jackets, 73-7.
The match opened inauspiciously: Clemson running back Travis Etienne fumbled the ball early in the first quarter. Georgia Tech recovered and launched its drive, but was unable to score any points. A volley of sorts ensued: Clemson scored first when Lawrence threw a touchdown to Cornell Powell. Georgia Tech responded with a 59-yard touchdown when QB Jeff Sims found receiver Jalen Camp. But Clemson clapped back with an 83-yard TD to receiver Amari Rodgers.
A subsequent Tigers field-goal drive made the score 17-7. But the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets weren’t giving up. Their defense soon forced Lawrence to throw his first interception since Oct. 19, 2019. But once again, they couldn’t turn that turnover into points: Georgia Tech turned the ball over on fourth down. Clemson took over.
From them on, it was an offensive onslaught: Lawrence threw yet another touchdown, a 34-yard beauty to Clemson tight end Davis Allen. Then, Lawrence surprised onlookers by tossing another TD to an unlikely source: 300-pound defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney. And on a subsequent drive, Lawrence scored again — finding Frank Ladson Jr. in the end zone for another TD. That score put Clemson ahead, 38-7.
And then, after his embarrassing fumble, Travis Etienne redeemed himself in a big way. With just over two minutes left in the half, Etienne rushed into the end zone for a touchdown, putting his team up 44-7. (That score made Etienne the team’s all-time scoring leader; he’s racked up 408 points during his career, per ABC.)
When Georgia Tech tried to put together a drive, Sims threw an interception. Tigers player Nolan Turner returned the ball 31 yards to the seven-yard line, and Clemson quickly found the end zone. Lawrence located Rodgers again for a daring TD pass. That touchdown added to what was already a commanding lead; the Tigers led 52-7 at halftime.
But Lawrence’s head-turning play wasn’t the only thing that caught notice. Announcers raved about Lawrence’s intangibles, work ethic, intelligence — and his leadership. Before the first half ended, they noted that Lawrence led a protest march on the Clemson campus back in June. That march followed similar demonstrations across the country after the killing of George Floyd.
Days before, Lawrence had tweeted: “There has to be a shift in the way of thinking. Rational must outweigh irrational. Justice must outweigh injustice. Love must outweigh hate. If you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and you don’t like how it feels — that’s when you know things need to change.” Lawrence clearly felt that it was important to speak up and take action. The ABC commentators quoted Lawrence as saying: “Unless you act, it’s just words.”
As impressive as Lawrence’s commitment to justice is, his play today was just as striking. Lawrence threw five touchdowns in the first half alone. According to ESPN, that’s the first 5-TD game since quarterback Deshaun Watson played for Clemson in 2016. Lawrence finished the day with 404 passing yards and five touchdowns, both career highs.
Lawrence exited the game in the third quarter, but the scoring didn’t stop. Running back Chez Mellusi rushed for a 5-yard TD in the 3rd. Then, replacement QB Hunter Helms launched a 7-yard touchdown pass to #14 Kobe Pace. Finally, wide receiver Ajou Ajou caught a screen pass and returned it for 35 yards, evading defenders as he rushed into the end zone. That final touchdown sealed the deal for Clemson’s landslide victory. (It’s the biggest conference win in ACC history, according to ESPN.) The Clemson Tigers scored the most points they’ve had in a road game since 1915 (!!!)
Best of all, the Clemson Tigers remain undefeated (5-0).
For all of his stunning playmaking, Lawrence still thought there were things to improve upon. In a postgame interview, he commented: “It’s a good day. I felt really sharp on my reads […] I just wanna work on — still, just continue to get better, you know, on my accuracy. Missed a couple throws, I mean…We really left, probably, at least 14 points off the scoreboard.”
“There’s always something you can get better at,” he noted. “But it was a good day.”