Lawrence Returns in Clemson Comeback Win

By Terrance Turner

The Clemson Tigers returned to action today for their first action in three weeks as they battled Pitt. A scheduled game versus Florida State had to be postponed due to the pandemic. (Positive tests for COVID-19 led to the game being scrapped…for now.) Today was the first game quarterback Trevor Lawrence has played since testing positive for COVID-19. But he showed no signs of rust, leading the Tigers to a 52-17 win.

Clemson scored right out of the gate with a touchdown from wide receiver E.J. Williams. A later field goal put Clemson ahead 10-0. That lead increased even more after Lawrence threw a touchdown pass to receiver Cornell Powell. After a targeting call on the Pitt offense, the Tigers advanced to first and goal. They cashed in when running back Travis Etienne ran in for the touchdown. (He’s scored in each of the last seven games.) Etienne ranks first in the ACC in rushing touchdowns and rushing yards. The Tigers scored again near the close of the quarter, with a TD from Lyn-J Dixon. Clemson was up 31-0 at the end of the first quarter — their highest-scoring first quarter in history.

Pitt kicked a field goal in the second quarter, making it 31-3. A dramatic catch by Powell moved the chains. But on 1st and goal, a penalty (for ineligible man down field) pushed the Tigers back. Then a defensive pass interference call on Pitt took the Tigers to first and goal. Third-string running back Chez Mellusi ran into a stout defense, but his teammates surrounded Mellusi and pushed him into the end zone. That made it 38-3.

With just five minutes left in the quarter, Clemson had its first punt. On a Pitt drive that the Clemson defense was unable to stop the run, Pitt scored its first touchdown of the game (via #3). The first half concluded with two major calls. A catch by Powell was overturned on review, after a long conference by the referees that drew boos from the crowd. They erupted into even more boos after Pitt defenders ran into the Clemson kicker; there was no flag.

The second half began with a disastrous sequence by Clemson. Lawrence was tackled and fumbled the ball. Pitt cashed in on the takeaway with a touchdown that made it 38-17. On their drive, a Clemson TD was negated by two fouls on the offense. On fourth down, a 41-yard field goal attempt was no good. While Pitt went three-and-out on its next drive, so did Clemson. Tigers coach Dabo Swinney was irate on the sideline, yelling at various players.

But Clemson soon got its act together. On 3rd and 5, Lawrence took off on a daring run to get the first down, keeping the drive alive. That drive would culminate in 38-yard catch-and-run by Braden Galloway. The initial touchdown was overturned on review, but it still placed the Tigers at the three-yard line for first and goal. They scored when Etienne scored his second touchdown of the day.

Later, Mellusi notched a nine-yard touchdown to put Clemson up 52-17. That would be the final score. The Tigers threatened to score again late in the fourth quarter, when Patterson scooped up a dropped Pitt ball and returned it to the one-yard line. Still, Clemson had an impressive win. Trevor Lawrence threw for 403 yards and two touchdowns. Today he surpassed 10,000 total career yards, the third-most all-time in school history.

Today, Lawrence and other Clemson seniors were honored for Senior Day. This may very well be the last home game he and his classmates play for Clemson. “Just super grateful to be a part of Clemson University, and even more so, this program,” Lawrence said after the game, adding that “my years here have been amazing.”

Lawrence is expected to be drafted No. 1 in the NFL Draft. Should he enter, however, Lawrence will be entering a league upended by COVID-19. Today, Adam Schefter reported that none of the quarterbacks on the Denver Broncos roster are eligible for tomorrow’s game versus the Saints. According to Schefter, all four quarterbacks were deemed “high-risk contacts” due to not wearing masks. QB Jeff Driskel tested positive on Thursday, Schefter said. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson also tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and is among 19 players placed on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list. (THIS JUST IN: Analyst Jay Glazer reports that two more Ravens have been added to the list as of 7:29 pm.)

Clemson Survives Boston College Onslaught to Remain Undefeated

By Terrance Turner

The Clemson Tigers overcame an 18-point deficit and the loss of their star quarterback Trevor Lawrence to win today. Clemson stormed back from a three-possession trail to beat Boston College, 34-28. The Tigers are now 7-0, with a 27th win in a row at home.

Trevor Lawrence tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, according to ESPN. He is experiencing mild symptoms but is in isolation at home. “He’s doing great,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of Lawrence. “[He] Zoomed the team last night, [and I] talked to him this morning — feels like he can play today. He’s doing well, but obviously there’s protocol.” Lawrence must isolate for a period of 10 days and must then pass some cardiac exams, per Coach Swinney. “You have 10 days, and then you have the cardiac part, so he won’t be able to get through that in time to play next week.”

In Lawrence’s place was D.J. Uiagalelei, a 6’5″, 250-lb freshman quarterback. The question was whether the Tigers could survive without their star quarterback and win the game. For a while, the answer was unclear. But today, it was a definite yes.

Boston College struck first with a touchdown: quarterback Phil Jurkovec found Zay Flowers for an 18-yard TD pass to put the Tigers behind for the first time all season. But Clemson responded when running back Travis Etienne scored a 35-yard touchdown. A short time later, it was David Bailey’s 2-yard scoring run that put the Eagles ahead for good, 14-7. That was the end of the first quarter.

According to ABC News, “It appeared Clemson would tie things again, driving to the BC 1. But the normally sure-handed Etienne fumbled the handoff from Uiagalelei. Cornerback Brandon Sebastian picked it up and set off 97 yards for the return TD.” Later, Jurkovec hit Boston’s C.J. Lewis for an 18-yard touchdown on the next series. That put them ahead 28-10. Clemson trailed by 18 points. They were still down 28-13 at the half. That was the largest deficit by an AP #1 team at home since 1950.

β€œDon’t flinch,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told his team at halftime. β€œIt’s been a long time since we’ve been down like this,” he said. β€œWe’re fixing to find out what this team’s made of.”

Indeed. As the third quarter began, Clemson began a comeback. On 4th and 1, Uiagalelei ran 30 yards for the touchdown, making it 28-20. Then he hurled an 8-yard TD to wide receiver Amari Rodgers. A two-point attempt was unsuccessful. But Clemson was knocking on the door of yet another score.

The score would remain 28-26 for nearly all of the third quarter. But as the quarter came to a close, Travis Etienne launched a rush to become the ACC’s all-time rushing leader. He has 4,612 total rushing yards and 64 career touchdowns. Then, in the fourth quarter, Etienne dazzled once again with a 17-yard touchdown run. That gave Clemson the lead with 11:34 to go. It was Etienne and Uiagalelei’s late-game heroics that helped seal the win — and earned them the Leather Helmet award after the game.

The ABC announcing crew selected Travis Etienne (left) as the Leather Helmet Award winner and game MVP. Etienne then dedicated the honor and handed it off to Clemson QB @DJUiagalelei. (Photo from Twitter @ClemsonFB).

With the score 32-28, the Tigers went for an extra-point attempt. But the ball bounced off the upright. The kick was no good! Yet Clemson maintained its narrow lead throughout the fourth quarter. They remained ahead by four, despite a crucial three-and out that could’ve sealed their doom.

As time began to run out, Boston College attempted a last-gasp offensive drive in hopes of winning the game. But Jurkovic was tackled in the end zone. He threw the ball in the air as he was going down. Chaos erupted at the end of the play, with flags flying everywhere. “There are two penalties on the play, both by the offense,” the referee announced. The flag for illegal touching was declined, but Jurkovic got flagged for intentional grounding. Because the quarterback was tackled in the end zone, the result of the play was a safety. That gave two points to Clemson, who won 34-28.

Clemson, the No. 1 team in the country, remains undefeated. The Tigers celebrated in the locker room, and so did coach Dabo Swinney:

“So happy for this team. Great win,” Lawrence tweeted after the game. He added that he was “proud” of Uiagalelei. Lawrence will miss next week’s game versus Notre Dame, but Swinney hopes he will be well enough to travel with the team.

Clemson Wallops Georgia Tech In Record-Breaking Game

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.”