COLUMBIA, SC – Dabo Swinney simply couldn’t contain his joy over Trevor Lawrence and midway through the Tigers’ latest blowout, Clemson’s coach just had to let the kid know.
“Man,” Swinney said he told Lawrence, “it’s just so much fun watching you play quarterback.”
Swinney should get at least a couple more opportunities to see Lawrence shine this postseason, starting next Saturday with the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game against Virginia.
Lawrence threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns as the third-ranked Tigers (No. 3 CFP) won their 27th straight and finished their second consecutive 12-0 regular season with a 38-3 victory over rival South Carolina on Saturday.
Lawrence, who led Clemson to a national title his first year, showed off a full range of skills with highlight-show touchdown throws to Tee Higgins and a knack for running the Tigers out of trouble.
Lawrence finished 26 of 36 passing and completed an ACC record-tying 18 straight throws to keep the Tigers rolling. He also led Clemson with 66 yards rushing, several of his runs going for first downs.
“After this year’s over and see if we accomplish what we set out to do, then we take a step back,” Lawrence said. “But I don’t think there’s really any time to do that right now. We really want to enjoy this win, but Monday get right back to it and prepare for Virginia.”
Travis Etienne ran for two touchdowns to break Atlantic Coast Conference marks for career touchdowns (57) from scrimmage and rushing scores (53) as the Tigers dominated throughout on the way to a sixth straight win over South Carolina (4-8).
Lawrence had touchdown throws of 10 and 65 yards to Tee Higgins and 16 yards to Justyn Ross.
“This is where we are supposed to be. And this is what we do,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said.
Clemson’s defense did its part in the beatdown, holding the Gamecocks to 174 yards and continuing a run where the Tigers have limited all 12 opponents this year to less than 300 yards of total offense.
South Carolina’s defense showed some fight very early, stuffing Etienne for no gain on fourth-and-goal at the 1 on Clemson’s first drive. Four plays later, though, Ryan Hilinski threw an interception to Derion Kendrick to set up the first score and Clemson’s rout was on.
South Carolina, which gained 600 yards a year ago in this game, struggled to make anything against Clemson’s front-line defense. The Gamecocks finished with 99 yards overall the first 30 minutes and their only score was Parker White’s 39-yard field in the second quarter.
It was South Carolina’s fewest points scored against Clemson in 30 years since a 45-0 shutout loss in 1989.
Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp did not want to list the things he believes caused his team to struggle, saying it would sound like excuses. “The bottom line is we weren’t productive and we need to get better,” he said.
Clemson: The Tigers continued their progress toward the College Football Playoff since its lone close-call two months ago at North Carolina. Lawrence, Etienne, Higgins and Ross are as potent an offense quartet as there in the game while linebacker Isaiah Simmons and safeties K’Von Wallace and Tanner Muse lead a defense that doesn’t get beat for big plays.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks will have plenty of time to stew over a lost season, with what Muschamp would call his deepest and most talented team. Instead, South Carolina squandered second-half leads in losses to North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee and could not mount any offense the past month with only two touchdowns in the third- and fourth quarters of the past five games.
Clemson’s Swinney said if his team had lost to the same club that topped then-third-ranked Georgia earlier this year, “we’d be voted 20th” by the CFP committee. “It’s big. They can’t vote us out,” Swinney ranted. “We’ve got to go 30-0.”
South Carolina played without injured record-setting receiver Bryan Edwards, who missed his final two career games with a knee injury. Edwards was saluted with a video tribute. He holds program career records for catches and receiving yards. Edwards finished one TD catch behind the mark of 23 shared by NFL receivers Alshon Jeffery and Sidney Rice.
Clemson takes on Virginia in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte, North Carolina on Saturday night.
South Carolina’s season is over.
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