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Lawrence, front seven lead Clemson to thrashing of Georgia Tech

The Clemson Tigers defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets by a score of 49-21 on Saturday afternoon. In what was perhaps the Tigers’ most complete performance of the season, they notched their first ACC win of 2018 and improved to 4-0.

The biggest storyline from Saturday’s win was the performance of freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence had his best outing of the season by completing 13/18 passes for 176 yards and four touchdowns. To this point in the season, the quarterback competition between Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence had been closely contested, but on Saturday, Lawrence appeared to take the reigns. Despite exiting the Georgia Southern game early with a chest injury, Bryant opened the game as the starter. He wasn’t very impressive however, as he compiled just 61 total yards on the afternoon. Clemson was forced to punt on the first two drives of the game after only gaining 13 yards with Bryant at the helm.

Once Lawrence took over, the Clemson offense changed completely. Lawrence picked apart the Georgia Tech defense and capped off his first drive with an impressive bullet pass to Hunter Renfrow in the corner of the endzone. Head coach Dabo Swinney commented on the throw after the game by saying, “That was a laser in a very tight window, down and away just right where he needed to put it… He’s got elite arm talent, there’s no question about that”. Just about two minutes later, Lawrence connected with a wide open Justyn Ross for a 53-yard score to give the Tigers a comfortable 21-0 lead.

While Lawrence still has room to improve, he has certainly grown a lot since his first performance. Lawrence appears to be looking downfield more frequently and he has shown increasing confidence extending the plays with his feet. The freshman has been compiling more and more snaps since the first week of the season, and it could result in him being named the starter ahead of next week’s matchup against the Syracuse Orange. When asked about the quarterback depth chart after the game, Swinney admitted that Lawrence played a great game but added, “We’re not gonna set depth charts here in the postgame press conference… As coaches, we’ll get in the office tomorrow… watch all the tape and go from there just like we do every week”.

After allowing Georgia Tech to drive into the red zone on the game’s opening drive, Clemson’s defense was dominant. Georgia Tech only managed 98 yards and one completion through the first three quarters. To that point in the game, the Tiger defense equaled the Georgia Tech offense in points scored at 7-7. The defense got Clemson on the board early in the first quarter after a hit from Tre Lamar jarred the football loose. After it was kicked around in the backfield, Clelin Ferrell fell on the ball in the end zone to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead. The defense recorded four sacks and forced eight fumbles on the afternoon, proving once again that the triple option offense is destined for failure when facing Clemson’s front seven.

Another good sign for the Tiger offense was the performance of the running backs. Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster combined for 197 yards and two touchdowns on just 19 carries, good for 10.4 yards per carry. The offensive line gave the running backs holes all day long of which they took advantage by taking the ball to the second level. Both Etienne and Feaster demonstrated their strength in the open field shedding tackles throughout the game.  

Perhaps the most impressive part of the afternoon for the Tigers came late in the fourth quarter with the Tigers up 42-21. After the second and third string defensive players allowed two straight touchdowns for the Yellow Jackets, Swinney decided to put Trevor Lawrence and the starters back out on offense to get one more score. On a drive that started on their own 23 yard line, Etienne and Lawrence marched down the field to score on five plays in just two minutes and thirteen seconds. The drive culminated with Lawrence unleashing a 30-yard laser to Tee Higgins who proceeded to shed a defender en route to the end zone.

Swinney and the Tigers will certainly be excited to leave Atlanta with a win given their track record at Bobby Dodd Stadium. In Swinney’s tenure as head coach, the Tigers were just 1-3 against the Yellow Jackets on the road. With the win, Clemson extended their winning streak against the Yellow Jackets to four games.

The Tigers will look to start a new winning streak against the Syracuse Orange next week. After handing Clemson their lone regular season loss a year ago, the Orange are off to a hot start in 2018 with a 4-0 record. Clemson will look to get their revenge at 12:00 pm this Saturday in Death Valley.

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