Clemson's Travis Etienne is arguably the best running back in ACC history. But the likely future first-round draft pick was neutralized Saturday night in South Bend as the talented Notre Dame defense smothered the Tigers' rushing attack in a 47-40 double-overtime thriller.
It was the second straight game where the defense was able to find the endzone after a fumble during the exchange between quarterback D.J. Uiagalele and Travis Etienne.
On Saturday, it was the case of the perfect play call and Norte Dame's Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah blew up a toss play before he rumbled his way 23-yards to the end zone.
"It was just a tough situation. The guy timed it up perfectly and blitzed the gap," Clemson Offensive Coordinator Tony Elliott said. " I think (Travis) took his eye off the ball when he saw the rusher and didn't complete the catch and it turned into seven points for them."
Etienne was held to just 28 yards on 18 carries but did find paydirt on a three-yard run which gave the Tigers the lead 33-26 with 3:33 remaining in regulation.
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Head coach Dabo Swinney said it was disappointing to make such costly mistakes and turnovers at crucial moments of the game. However, he said that at the end of the day there was still a lot of good and the team once again showed true grit to battle back after digging themselves into a hole in the first half for the second straight week.
"We weren't able to run the ball and that was obviously a huge difference in the game," Swiney said. "We've got to cut some of the mistakes but again I cannot say enough how proud I am of our team. They fought with every ounce of everything they had."
Elliot said it was a rough night for his senior running back who continues to set record after record this season in his victory lap around Tigertown. Saturday though was just one of those long nights and it impacted the ACC's all-time leading rusher.
"I think he was very upset. I know Coach Swinney spent a little time with him to encourage him. You know Travis is a very conscientious young man and wants to help his team win but right now he's in a little bit of a slump."
Despite the current rut Etienne is battling through he remains firmly 'the guy' for the Tigers and has the unwavering support of his offensive coordinator.
"All of us in that locker room and everybody in our program, we're going to live and die with Travis Etienne. We understand that not everybody is perfect and we've got to back to the basics," Elliott said.