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Etienne Leading Clemson

By BJ Bennett
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Travis Etienne just had one of the game's top individual performances of the year.

The talk all week had been on the Clemson quarterback situation. In a dramatic win over Syracuse on Saturday, it was the running backs that proved to be the difference. While redshirt freshman Chase Brice did a nice job stepping in for the injured Trevor Lawrence at quarterback, including finding Tee Higgins for a critical 20-yard gain on 4th-and-6 on the game-winning drive, the Tigers, led by star Travis Etienne, rushed for nearly 300 yards. Correspondingly, Clemson remains undefeated and one of the favorites for the College Football Playoff.

Etienne, who Jim Johnson picked to win the Heisman Trophy back in the summer, had one of the game's top individual performances of the year. He rushed 27 times for a career-high 203 yards and three touchdowns, his final trip to the endzone, coming with 41 seconds remaining, proving to be the Tigers' go-ahead score. With Clemson somewhat limited under center, Etienne emerged as a dynamic offensive focal point, breaking loose for consistent chunk gains as the Tigers rallied back. The Orange simply had no answer. 

After Syracuse took a 23-13 fourth quarter lead, Etienne promptly carried the ball ten times for 86 yards and two touchdowns on Clemson's final three drives. With the game, and perhaps the season, on the line, the Tigers turned to Etienne; he took the opportunity and ran with it. Etienne's performance doesn't just keep Clemson unscathed, it comes with both considerable relief and momentum as the Tigers settle into the meat of the schedule. Individually, Etienne is now positioned as a Clemson centerpiece and one of college football's leading names.

For the season, Etienne now has 73 attempts for 594 yards and eight touchdowns. His yard-per-carry average stands at 8.1. Over Etienne's last three games, he rushed for 162 yards and two scores, 121 yards and a touchdown and, after Saturday, 203 yards and three mores scores. Etienne, dating back to last year, has 15 total touchdowns in his last ten games. Already, the true sophomore has 22 career scores overall.

Etienne and Dalvin Cook are the only ACC players this millennium with at least 500 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns and a receiving score through the first five games of a season.

With adversity adding pressure to the moment, Etienne, Clemson's running backs and offensive line answered the call. Adam Choice rushed nine times for 58 yards and Tavien Feaster ran nine times for 44 yards. Only once since 2015 have the Tigers compiled more total rushing attempts in a single game. They move forward with a new element of their star-studded team in the national spotlight.
In 2017, Etienne was the final member of Clemson's recruiting class. On Saturday, he was the Tigers' most important player on the field.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: / Twitter: @BJBennettSports