Chase Brice, Clemson Avoid Syracuse's Upset Bid Despite Trevor Lawrence Injury

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 29, 2018

CLEMSON, SC - SEPTEMBER 29: Quarterback Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Clemson Tigers is helped from the field after taking a hard hit from the Syracuse Orange during the football game at Clemson Memorial Stadium on September 29, 2018 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
Mike Comer/Getty Images

The third-ranked Clemson Tigers survived an upset bid from the Syracuse Orange, winning 27-23 at home Saturday.

Sophomore running back Travis Etienne played a starring role in the result, running for 203 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. He scored the go-ahead touchdown on a two-yard run with 41 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Trevor Lawrence's exit overshadowed the result. The Clemson quarterback didn't return to the game for the second half after taking a big hit from Syracuse defensive back Evan Foster.

Lawrence's injury came days after Kelly Bryant told the Greenville News' Manie Robinson he plans on transferring from Clemson after being demoted.

Rather than having an experienced Bryant come on to replace Lawrence, the Tigers instead had to turn to redshirt freshman Chase Brice. Brice was 7-of-13 for 83 yards and an interception.

Clemson looked to be in trouble when it started the second half down 16-7 without its starting quarterback. However, the Tigers defense stepped up to limit Syracuse to 73 yards over the final two quarters. The Orange's only second-half scoring drive was largely the result of a muffed punt that set them up at the Clemson 10-yard line.

The Tigers offense, meanwhile, kept Syracuse's defense on the field for lengthy drives with a healthy dose of Etienne, Adam Choice and Tavien Feaster on the ground. The trio combined for 305 rushing yards and averaged 6.8 yards per carry.

The success of Clemson's running game meant Brice didn't have to do too much as well.

Brice's big moment came on 4th-and-6 with 2:38 left in the game as he hit Tee Higgins for a 20-yard pass and a first down. Five plays later, Etienne delivered the decisive score.

While Brice and his teammates have earned the right to celebrate for the time being, the discussion will soon shift to the health of Lawrence.

The good news is, the schedule works out pretty well for Clemson over the next couple of weeks.

The Tigers play the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Oct. 6. Wake Forest fired defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel after allowing 56 points and 566 yards in a defeat to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish . Following that, Clemson has a week off before facing the North Carolina State Wolfpack at home Oct. 20.

Head coach Dabo Swinney might even be able to convince Bryant to come back. His transfer isn't yet official, so a return isn't out of the question. A Clemson official confirmed to SB Nation's Morgan Moriarty that Bryant is still enrolled at the school.

Swinney is more than open to a reunion.

"Heck yeah. I love that kid," Swinney said in a halftime interview with ESPN's Holly Rowe about whether he'd welcome Bryant back to the team, per The Athletic's Bruce Feldman.

Saturday showed Clemson can still win without Lawrence, but having Bryant under center is a clear upgrade over Brice and would stabilize the Tigers' position as a national title contender.

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