Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the supremely talented sophomore who diced up Alabama’s defense in last season’s College Football Playoff National Championship, ran for 24 yards in the first quarter of No. 1 Clemson’s 52-14 route of Georgia Tech Thursday night.
While that might not seem like a notable amount, his first-quarter rushing total would’ve ranked as the fourth-highest single-game rushing total in his young career – just behind his 26 yards against Duke and 27 yards against Alabama last season.
Lawrence broke a scoreless tie with the Yellow Jackets on a six-yard run on a read option keeper, which doubled his number of career rushing touchdowns.
Let’s get this straight: No one’s going to confuse Lawrence with the second-coming of Kyler Murray, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner who eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards in 14 games for Oklahoma.
Lawrence’s arm, football IQ and 6-6 frame are the reasons why some draftniks suggested he could’ve been taken No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft after his freshman year – two years before he was even draft-eligible.
But Lawrence’s legs could add a dynamic to the Tigers’ top-five offense that we didn’t see fully implemented last year. We’re talking about plays like this 14-yard scramble for a first down on 3rd & 10, when he was able to pick up a late block and exit out-of-bounds safely.
That first-down run came minutes after he showed his strength and agility as a runner after he elected to keep another read option play after running back Travis Etienne was swarmed.
He shedded an arm tackle and cut to his left for the first down.
Lawrence left the game after Lyn-J Dixon ran for an 18-yard touchdown that put Clemson up 42-7 halfway through the third quarter so he finished the game with those 24 rushing yards that he racked up in the first quarter.
It’d be a lot to ask the co-Heisman Trophy frontrunner – the Westgate SuperBook listed Lawrence and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa as co-favorites at 3/1 odds on August 26 – to replicate those first-quarter numbers on the ground, quarter after quarter.
Nor is it worth the risk, especially after last year’s scare when Lawrence was knocked out of a game against Syracuse, forcing a furious comeback by the Tigers.
The sophomore quarterback wasn’t perfect on Thursday, finishing 13-of-23 passing for 168 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, including one that would’ve been a pick-six were it not for Lawrence’s effort to make the tackle.
But he was good enough for the Tigers to cruise to victory and start the season 1-0 in ACC play, especially when he was buoyed by their ever-explosive rushing attack of Etienne (12 carries for 205 yards and three touchdowns) and Dixon (eight carries for 64 yards and a touchdown).
Lawrence’s 62-yard touchdown connection to Tee Higgins was reminiscent of Clemson’s passing attack during last season’s College Football Playoff run.
While Lawrence’s passing numbers were some of the least impressive since he became Clemson’s full-time starter, Thursday provided glimpses that his legs could be a useful weapon in small doses this season, whether it’s through read options when defenses are keyed on stopping Etienne or Dixon, or through his ability to scramble in the rare occasions when star wide receivers Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross are covered.