Over the last few years, the offensive numbers have been on the rise in college football. The pace of the game has quickened, and teams like to spread out and attack all over the field. Due to the increase in plays, yards, and points, long standing school records are being broken with regularity. Star tailback Travis Etienne is currently rewriting the Clemson record books as his junior season comes to a close. The Tigers have had no shortage of talented ball carriers throughout their history. Players like Terry Allen, C.J. Spiller, James Davis, and Andre Ellington have all toted the rock with great success in orange and purple. Etienne is on the verge of surpassing them all.
Exploding Into The Clemson Record Books
The Tiger offense has become a big play machine over the past few seasons. No player epitomizes that more than the tailback from Jennings, Louisiana. He is averaging and astounding 8.2 yards per carry over the course of his 38 career games. Look at that number again. Etienne is nearly getting a first down on every carry. It’s no surprise this stat is also atop the Clemson record books. As a freshman, he was more of a change of pace, and a big play threat out of the backfield. In the past two seasons he has become a workhorse, with 15 career 100+ yard games including three outings with over 200.
He has both the vision and breakaway speed to take it the distance every time he touches the ball. The junior has 13 career rushing touchdowns of 40 yards of more, with a career long 90 yard scoring run in the season opener. His ability to change a game on any given snap also benefits his teammates. He requires so much of the defense’s focus, that things open up for Trevor Lawrence and the passing game.
Orange In The End Zone
Speaking of touchdown runs, Etienne claimed that career record a few weeks back. Fittingly he broke the school’s career rushing touchdown mark on an explosive 86 yard run. He now has 50 scores on the ground in under 40 games played. It is one thing to break so many records, but to do it in such an efficient manner is all the more impressive. Etienne had 24 touchdowns a season ago, which is seven clear of the next closer player in the Clemson record books. The only thing left for him to do is break Spiller’s single game record of four rushing touchdowns.
Passing The Priest
After a huge 205 yard performance in the 2019 opener against Georgia Tech, Etienne scuffled slightly to start this season. He had four consecutive games with less than 80 yards, and only scored twice in that span. Over the last five games he has got back to his usual explosive self, with over 100 yards in each contest. He now has 1214 yards for the season, with a minimum of four games remaining. In 2018, his 1658 yards smashed the school’s single season rushing mark. He could break his on record if his current hot streak extends through the rest of the 2019 campaign. Etienne is one of just five Clemson tailbacks to have back to back 1000+ yard season in the last 40 years. Wayne Gallman, Ellington, Davis, and Raymond Priester are the others to do so.
The last man on that list is the one Travis Etienne is currently chasing. Priester is the Tigers all-time leading rusher with 3966 career yards. A workhorse for Clemson in the mid 90s, he has two of the schools top four single season rushing totals, and the single game record with 263 yards against Duke in 1995. Etienne is closing in on bumping his from a top the Clemson record books though. He currently has 3638 yards in his three seasons in orange and purple. With his current pace this season, he could surpass Priester during the ACC Championship game in early December.
Carrying The Load
It was thought that when star quarterback Deshaun Watson left the Tigers for the NFL, that the offense would take a few steps back. It was a reasonable notion, given just how brilliant Watson was under center. However, Etienne emergence as one of the best backs in school history has kept the Clemson offense right on track these last three seasons. Whether it was breaking in Kelly Bryant as a new starter in 2017, or the transition to then freshman Lawrence a year ago, this offense has had the luxury of giving the ball to number nine knowing he will make a play.
It is likely that he will be off to stardom in the NFL after the 2019 season. However, he will not leave before making a permanent mark on this program’s history. Etienne has a chance to place his name atop the Clemson record books in one last category, further cementing him as one of the best players to ever have that orange paw on his helmet.