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Lawrence’s 3 TDs lead No. 1 Clemson to 41-23 win vs Virginia

The Cavaliers put up 417 yards, the most given up by Clemson in an ACC game the last two seasons, and outgained the Tigers on the ground, 147-137.
Credit: UVA Athletics

CLEMSON, S.C. — Trevor Lawrence threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns, two to Amari Rodgers, and No. 1 Clemson started 3-0 for the sixth straight season with a 41-23 victory over Virginia on Saturday night.

The Tigers (3-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) looked a bit sluggish after a week off, but heated up against the Cavaliers (1-1, 1-1) when their offensive stars — Lawrence, Rodgers and tailback Travis Etienne — got rolling.

Clemson was up just 3-0 late in the first quarter when Etienne went for a 16-yard scoring run — nearly losing his balance after a couple of hits before powering into the end zone. Lawrence and Rodgers opened things up with a pair of scoring passes in the final six minutes before halftime.

Rodgers caught a laser-like throw from the junior passer for a 27-yard TD, deftly toe-tapping the grass before going out of bounds.

After safety Nolan Turner’s interception on Virginia’s next possession, Lawrence and Rodgers were at it again — the receiver taking a simple swing pass and leaping over defender Nick Grant to reach the end zone for a 24-3 lead.

Virginia, pounded by the Tigers 62-17 last December in the ACC Championship game, fought back to cut it to 27-17 midway through the third period, but Lawrence found Etienne near the goal line for a 4-yard scoring pass.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney compared the game to taking “a little Robitussin” for a cough. “It didn’t look real good for a little while there,” he said. “We were sloppy. We missed a lot of opportunities.”

Still, Swinney said his players came out with a win and will learn from this one. “We have a lot to improve on,” he said. “We are going to have to improve.”

It was the 38th game with at least one touchdown for Etienne, matching the all-time mark shared by Florida’s Tim Tebow and Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon.

Etienne finished with 115 yards on the ground and five catches for 75 yards.

Lawrence extended his streak of pass attempts without an interception to 314, spanning his past nine games.

Virginia, which was nearly doubled up in total yards in the conference title game, hung tough throughout and forced Clemson’s front-line starters to play deep into the final quarter for the first time this season.

The Cavaliers put up 417 yards, the most given up by Clemson in an ACC game the last two seasons, and outgained the Tigers on the ground, 147-137.

Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.

Cavaliers coach Bronco Mendenhall said his team didn’t show up simply to measure itself against Clemson. “We came to win the game,” he said. “We didn’t come for benchmarks and we didn’t come just to be better than we were.”