For the second year in a row, Syracuse knocked out Clemson’s starting quarterback with an injury. Unlike last year, however, Clemson managed to overcome an injury to its starting quarterback and managed to avoid an upset on Saturday afternoon. Clemson rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to send Syracuse home with a 27-23 defeat. The win keeps No. 3 Clemson undefeated, but questions about what’s next for the Tigers are more prevalent than ever before.
This week started off with Dabo Swinney naming freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence his starting quarterback moving forward. Making the decision after four games led last year’s starter, Kelly Bryant, to announce his intent to transfer without having to sacrifice his eligibility for the 2018 season thanks to the new redshirt rule in college football. We discussed this earlier this week as that situation played out. But as the game unfolded Saturday afternoon, one could not help but wonder if Bryant finished filling out any paperwork needed to officially transfer.
Lawrence was knocked out of the game in the second quarter when he took a blow to the head on a running play. After being examined in the medical tent on the sideline, Lawrence later left the field with trainers for additional examination in the locker room. He did not return to the game.
Tony Elliott says Trevor Lawrence was in concussion protocol but was “doing pretty well” in 2ndhalf
— Gene Sapakoff (@Sapakoff) September 29, 2018
Clemson entrusted another freshman, Chase Brice, to take over at quarterback, but the keys to the offense were really handed to running back Travis Etienne (seen above celebrating a touchdown). Etienne rushed for 203 yards and three touchdowns to help power Clemson to a fourth-quarter rally that dug out of a 10-point deficit for the win. Syracuse may have missed some opportunities to put this game away, and their lack of milking any precious seconds off the clock when they could may have come back to hurt them as well. But Clemson did what a team full of rich talent and potential will do in this situation, and they found a way to win.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. The first thing that must be addressed is how long Lawrence may be out of action. Don’t expect Bryant to be walking through that door any time soon even if Lawrence is gone for any extended period of time. That bridge may have been burned down already, even though Swinney reportedly said he would welcome Bryant back with open arms.
Regardless of who is playing quarterback, Clemson is still the team to beat in the ACC Atlantic Division. But are they the team to beat in the ACC if Lawrence (and Bryant) are out of the quarterback picture? That may be more of a debate than many would have anticipated having earlier this season in part due to the showing Miami had Thursday night. But Clemson still has a championship-caliber defense that can make plays when it has to, and Etienne gave reason to trust being able to get with the running game if it is needed as well.
Don’t discount Clemson’s ACC and playoff hopes if Lawrence has to be out for a while. The Tigers still remain in a favorable spot moving forward.