Blue and Gold Illustrated

Dec 19, 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 34 of 55 DEC. 19, 2020 35 BY TODD D. BURLAGE CLEMSON RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE One of the biggest surprises of the college foot- ball offseason was when Clemson running back Travis Etienne decided to delay NFL pursuits and return for his senior year. And with the way this season has gone, perhaps the two-time reigning ACC Player of the Year might be second-guessing that decision. With "only" 758 rushing yards through Clemson's 10-game regular season, Etienne's production pace fell well short of last year when he gained 1,614 yards on the ground and scored 19 touchdowns on his way to second-team All-America honors. But make no mistake, a production slip during this strange season doesn't diminish how danger- ous Etienne is. The ACC'S all-time leading rusher still averages 5.1 yards per carry and leads the Tigers with 14 total touchdowns. In Notre Dame's first meeting against Clemson on Nov. 7 — a 47-40 double-overtime Irish win — controlling Etienne became a foremost priority. Mission accomplished. Led by senior nose tackle Kurt Hinish and senior linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, the Notre Dame rush defense remarkably held Etienne to only 28 yards on 18 carries — a 1.6-yard average. Seven times Etienne was thrown down for lost yardage, and on six other carries he totaled zero to three yards. Advantage: Notre Dame CLEMSON PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Clemson junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence's path to becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft hit a bump in the road in late Oc- tober when he tested positive for COVID-19. That sidelined him for a pair of games, including the Tigers' defeat in South Bend at the hands of the Fighting Irish. In the eight games Lawrence has played, though, it was business as usual. He is averaging 303.9 passing yards per game and has 20 touchdowns with just three interceptions. Willing to share the wealth, 11 different Clemson pass catchers have a touchdown grab. Etienne out of the backfield, senior wide receiver Amari Rodgers and fifth-year senior wideout Cor- nell Powell have been Lawrence's favorite targets. Rodgers has 61 receptions for 845 yards with six touchdowns, Powell has 41 grabs for 684 yards and five touchdowns, and Etienne has caught 41 passes for 512 yards with two scores. The Irish coaches became overly familiar with Lawrence in the 2018 College Football Playoff semifinals when he hit Notre Dame with 27-of-39 passing for 327 yards with three touchdowns and Fifth-year senior wide receiver Cornell Powell hauled in six passes for a game-best 161 receiving yards and a touchdown in Clemson's first meeting with Notre Dame earlier this season. Powell finished the regular season with 41 receptions for 684 yards and five scores. PHOTO BY CARL ACKERMAN/COURTESY ACC MEDIA GAME PREVIEW: ACC CHAMPIONSHIP On PaPer

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