Tigers’ Lawrence has huge day, misses INT mark

In the end, the first interception Trevor Lawrence threw since last year became a footnote after yet another dominant performance, this time in Clemson‘s 73-7 victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday.

Lawrence led a prolific offensive charge for the No. 1 Tigers, throwing for a career-high 404 yards and five first-half touchdown passes, also a career high. His day was finished after the first drive of the second half, but that did not stop his teammates from scoring. After Lawrence led a school-record 52 first-half points, Clemson finished with 73 and the largest margin of victory ever over an ACC opponent.

The only mistake he made happened late in the first quarter. Under pressure, Lawrence was picked off by Zamari Walton after throwing an ill-advised deep pass. It was Lawrence’s first interception since the first quarter against Louisville on Oct. 19, 2019. Lawrence went into the Georgia Tech game with a chance to break Russell Wilson‘s record for most consecutive passes without an interception, 379 from 2008 to ’09 while he played at NC State.

Lawrence’s streak ends at 366 straight passes without an interception. In his postgame comments, Lawrence said he did not put added pressure on himself knowing that record was a possibility, pointing instead to his overall performance.

“I think I played well today,” Lawrence said. “That’s the biggest thing coming away from the game, I feel like mentally I was prepared. I think I progressed well, went through my reads, took care of the ball for the most part. That one play, even though it was an interception, I feel like my decision was still OK. We had one-on-one and that guy just made a good play. From that standpoint, it’s going to happen in football, especially in the offense we run. We take a lot of shots. It’s going to happen, but I’m really happy with the way our whole offense played today. All of us were really locked in. It was a lot of fun.”

Indeed, Lawrence is playing the best football of his career considering what he has done over the first five games. He’s completing more than 70% of his passes, with 1,544 yards, 15 touchdowns to just one interception — and four rushing touchdowns as well.

Against Georgia Tech, Lawrence became the second Clemson quarterback to throw for 400 yards and five touchdowns in a road game. He joins Tajh Boyd, who did it twice — once in 2012 and another time in 2013.

“It’s the highest level of football I’ve seen out of him, but it’s what I think he expects and what everybody in our building expects out of him,” offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “He’s doing an unbelievable job of blocking out any external noise about the future. I think the biggest thing is he’s really, really being present in the moment, I think that’s what’s contributing to him playing his best football. He’s fully comfortable where he is. He’s embracing every opportunity that he gets to run out there, he’s not thinking about the future, he’s just trying to hone in on being the best version of him for his teammates.”

His future, of course, involves the NFL, where Lawrence is projected to be the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2021. Tanking for Trevor has become a popular hashtag on NFL Sundays, especially for those teams that are struggling to win.

Lawrence has said this would be his final season at Clemson, and there is no question that he wants to make it count. His performance on Saturday was just the latest example. For proof: Clemson (5-0, 4-0 ACC) has now scored at least 37 points in each of its first five games for the first time in school history.

What’s more, Lawrence is 30-1 as a starter, joining Rodney Williams, Boyd and Deshaun Watson as the only quarterbacks in school history to win at least 30 games as a starting quarterback. The school record, which all three of his predecessors hold, is 32.

“He’s just having fun,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “He’s enjoying himself. He’s really focused. I’ve never been around a guy that’s just more dialed in to today, literally, today and when I see him Monday, he’ll be locked in on Monday. He’s just enjoying his journey. He loves to play. He loves to prepare. He loves the challenge, and he’s so focused on his execution and his details. His reads, his footwork, all the little … just a true joy to be able to work with him every single day.”

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