No. 2 Clemson ‘a lot better’ heading down the stretch
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — No. 2 Clemson, behind freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence, is playing some of its best football heading into the final month of the regular season.
And the Tigers don’t expect to slow down.
Clemson (8-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) has steamrolled its past three opponents 163-20, including a 59-10 pummeling of Florida State this past Saturday.
The Tigers are more than five-touchdown favorites to rip through struggling Louisville (2-6, 0-5), which has lost its ACC games by an average margin of 20 points.
Center Gage Cervenka believes Clemson is ready to show even more.
“We’re not satisfied with how we’ve played yet,” he said Monday. “That’s what’s driving us.”
That, and another splashy postseason. Clemson is lone undefeated team left in the ACC and only Boston College, at 3-1 in the league, stands in the way of the Tigers claiming a fourth straight spot in the league’s championship game
Clemson heads to No. 24 Boston College on Nov. 10 in the game likely to settle the ACC Atlantic.
Then comes the initial College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday night where the Tigers will be among the top four teams in seeking their fourth consecutive chance to play for a national title.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he and his players are aware of the rankings. They just won’t put much stock in them yet.
“It just doesn’t matter as (you’ve) heard me say a million times unless they’re going to cancel the rest of the season,” Swinney said. “We just have so much work to do.”
Even if things look effortless the past few weeks. Since the drama-filled, 27-23 come from behind win over Syracuse on Sept. 29, the Tigers have made quick work of the opposition.
They led Wake Forest 28-0 by halftime, were up over then 16th-ranked North Carolina State 31-0 early in the third quarter and led 45-0 at Florida State before the Seminoles scored late in the third quarter.
Clemson leads the ACC in at 44.1 points a game and in fewest points allowed, 13.0.
Lawrence’s increased experience has certainly helped. The 6-foot-6 freshman supplanted starter Kelly Bryant after four games — Bryant became the fourth Clemson QB to transfer since Lawrence’s arrival on campus in January — and has steadily grown into his role.
“We’ve definitely gotten a lot better since then, everybody meshing together,” Lawrence said.
He had a career high 308 yards passing in the North Carolina State beatdown on Oct. 20, a mark that lasted a week after he threw for 314 yards at Florida State — an effort that earned him co-ACC rookie of the week.
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott thinks Lawrence’s success comes from his even-keeled attitude. When one play ends, Elliott said, Lawrence is thinking about the next one, no matter whether it’s a long touchdown pass or a bad interception.
“You knew he had all the makings, it was just a matter of time for that light to come on,” Elliott said. “He doesn’t get fazed by the stage, he doesn’t get fazed by the hype, he’s just focused on being the best version of himself.”
It looks like it adds up to the wrong time for the Cardinals to show up at Clemson. Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said he was concerned by his team’s 56-35 loss to Wake Forest last week, “that’s for sure, and we’ve got to get ready to play one of the best teams in our conference.”
Clemson receiver Amari Rodgers, who had 58- and 68-yard TD catches against Florida State, believes having Lawrence as the unquestioned No. 1 instead of sharing the position has helped the Tigers grow offensively.
“He’s going to keep on and we’re just going to keep on,” Rodgers said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
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