Trevor Lawrence is fired up — and that usually means great things for No. 1 Clemson.
Lawrence threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as the Tigers turned another supposed Atlantic Coast Conference showdown into a blowout with a 42-17 victory over seventh-ranked Miami on Saturday night.
“I was pumped,” Lawrence said.
The smooth-looking junior with the big arm has plenty of reasons to be, the biggest perhaps was how the Tigers (4-0, 3-0 ACC) dominated Miami (3-1, 2-1) in what some had figured would be a much tighter contest.
“Every game is important because it’s the next one,” he said. “But this one had a little extra, because (ESPN) GameDay, big game, Top-10 matchup, these are the games you’ve got to win if you want to be good.”
This is was billed as an ACC showdown where the Hurricanes could prove the swagger had truly returned to “The U.”
Instead, Miami’s offense was suffocated by the Tigers and held without an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter.
Hurricanes quarterback D’Eriq King came in alongside Lawrence as the ACC’s dominant, dynamic playmakers. The Houston transfer, though, was swarmed by Clemson all game and completed just 12 of 28 passes for 121 yards and his first two interceptions of the season.
Miami entered as the ACC leader in offense at 499 yards a game. It was held to 210 and never truly came close to challenging the Tigers.
“I cannot fault our effort, but our discipline in terms of doing things right made it very difficult to execute against a top-ranked team on the road,” Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz said.
Clemson got out fast with touchdowns on its first two drives, on tight end Braden Galloway’s 24-yard catch and a 2-yard run by Etienne.
Etienne, the two-time ACC player of the year who returned for his senior season, became college football’s all-time leader with a score in his 39th career game. He broke a three-way tie he was in with Florida’s Tim Tebow and Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon.
Perhaps Clemson coach Dabo Swinney’s desire to smother the ’Canes led to a horrendous mistake as the half ended.
Ahead 21-3, Swinney sent kicker B.T. Potter out for a 61-yard field field with 3 seconds remaining. But Potter’s kick was blocked and bounced into the arms of DJ Ivey, who took it 48 yards for a touchdown.
Miami rushed off the field in celebration while the reduced crowd at Death Valley — less than quarter of its 81,500 capacity — sat stunned.
Swinney, the two-time national championship coach, called it “as bad a decision (as) I’ve made.”
Any Miami “mo” quickly disappeared in the third quarter with three straight three-and-outs, including tailback Jaylan Knighton getting stuffed for no gain on fourth-and-short on the Hurricanes’ 34.
Etienne ended most of the drama with his 72-yard burst down the left sideline to put Clemson up 28-10.
About the only other troubling moment for Clemson came when Lawrence was on the ground grabbing his leg after getting hit in the third quarter. The nervous crowd sat silent as the training staff surrounded the likely No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL draft.
Lawrence, though, popped up and ran off to the sidelines on his own. Moments later, Lawrence rushed for a 4-yard TD, spiking the ball was staring down a Miami defender — and got called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said Lawrence had the wind knocked out of him and his quick return uplifted the Tigers.
“It just resonates throughout the whole locker room, the whole team,” Elliott said. “Would like to see him not spike the ball to get the penalty. We’ll talk with him about that. But love the fire and competitive spirit.”
Lawrence said he was “sore” and would be fine.
Lawrence ended with 292 yards, completing 29 of 41 and went without an interception for a 12th straight game.
Miami: The Hurricanes have some work to do when it comes to facing the nation’s best. They seemed to lose their poise at times with 15 penalties, including two for targeting on safety Amari Carter and linebacker Keontra Smith.
Clemson: The Tigers have been in four of the last five matchups of Top-10 ACC teams — and won them all. There are still some huge moments left for Clemson (at Notre Dame on Nov. 7, maybe?) as it tries for a sixth ACC title and College Football Playoff appearance.
The Clemson quarterback continued his run of interception-free football, now up to 355 attempts between throwing a pick. The streak dates to Oct. 19, 2019 when he threw two interceptions at Louisville. Lawrence is within 24 attempts of catching former North Carolina State QB Russell Wilson for the ACC mark of 379.
Want a positive for Miami? It blocked all three of Clemson’s field goal tries. The Hurricanes hadn’t gotten a block in their first three games, yet were active and on target in stopping the Tigers on field goals. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been part of a game with three blocked field goals,” Swinney said.
Miami starts a two-game homestand against Pitt next Saturday.
Clemson hits the road for the first time in more than a month at Georgia Tech on Saturday.