Trevor Lawrence wasn’t focused on his near-record streak of passes without an interception, just as he has tuned out speculation he could be the first pick in next year’s NFL draft.
Lawrence just had his mind on leading Clemson’s offense and having fun.
He brushed off the first interception he has thrown this season and passed for a career-high 404 yards and five touchdowns as No. 1 Clemson overwhelmed Georgia Tech 73-7 on Saturday.
Led by Lawrence, Clemson’s 671 yards and 73 points were the most allowed by Georgia Tech in the modern era.
“It’s really fun,” Lawrence said. “That’s why we practice and work so hard to get the details right and be on the same page. … It’s a lot of fun when your team plays like that offensively and defensively.”
Lawrence completed 24 of 32 passes. All of his scoring passes came in the Tigers’ dominant first half.
“It’s the highest level of football I’ve seen out of him,” Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “It’s what everybody in the building expects and what he expects from himself. … He’s doing an unbelievable job of blocking out any external noise about the future and the biggest thing is he’s being present in the moment.”
Clemson led 52-7 at halftime and kept adding to the lead in the second half, even with second- and third- (and maybe fourth-) stringers on the field.
Lawrence left the game after Clemson’s first possession of the second half.
Clemson (5-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) allowed only 204 yards and had a dominant 29-7 advantage in first downs.
The second-longest streak of passes without an interception in ACC history ended late in the first quarter when Zamari Walton picked off a pass by Lawrence. It ended Lawrence’s streak of 367 passes without an interception, falling short of the ACC record of 379 set by North Carolina State’s Russell Wilson from 2008-09.
Lawrence shrugged off the missed chance at the ACC mark.
“I didn’t really add much pressure to myself,” he said.
Otherwise, it was one of the best games of Lawrence’s career. His previous high was four touchdown passes. He passed that mark in the first half, connecting for two scoring passes with Amari Rodgers.
Georgia Tech (2-3, 2-2) provided its fans an early thrill when freshman quarterback Jeff Sims threw a 59-yard scoring pass to Jalen Camp in the first quarter for a 7-7 tie. The Yellow Jackets’ upset hopes faded quickly.
Lawrence answered with an 83-yard scoring pass to Rodgers on the Tigers’ next play, and the Yellow Jackets never recovered. The long pass sparked a string of 66 consecutive points scored by the Tigers.
It was the most points allowed by Georgia Tech since a 94-0 loss to Auburn in 1894. The Yellow Jackets couldn’t build on momentum gained in last week’s 46-27 win over Louisville.
“The big thing we’ve got to learn in this program is how to handle success,” second-year coach Geoff Collins said. “We’re going to start having a lot of success around here and we’ve got to learn how to handle it and … not just rely on learning from mistakes.”
Rodgers had six catches for 161 yards. He also had a 16-yard TD reception.
The Tigers took advantage of a Georgia Tech defense that was focused on stopping Travis Etienne, Clemson’s other Heisman candidate, and the Tigers’ running game. Etienne had a 2-yard scoring run in the second quarter to become Clemson’s all-time scoring leader, passing former kicker Chandler Catanzaro with 408 points.
Lawrence had a 34-yard scoring pass to tight end Davis Allen and also threw TD passes to Cornell Powell and Frank Ladson.
Georgia Tech’s defense had no better luck against Clemson’s backups. Freshman Hunter Helms threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Ajou Ajou and had another scoring drive capped by Kobe Pace’s 7-yard scoring run.
Clemson: The Tigers showed impressive poise in avoiding a letdown following last week’s much-anticipated win over Miami. Clemson made an impressive case for its No. 1 ranking with the dominant win. Lawrence played like he was compiling a highlight film for his Heisman Trophy campaign.
Georgia Tech: In a game viewed as a measuring stick for the second year of Collins’ program, the results were discouraging. Clemson beat the Yellow Jackets 52-14 to open last season in Collins’ debut, and this loss was more lopsided. The Yellow Jackets had three turnovers. Sims completed 6 of 13 passes for 81 yards with one touchdown and one interception, and he lost two fumbles.
Nyles Pickney, a 300-pound defensive tackle, had a 1-yard scoring run in a jumbo package. Cez Mellusi added a 5-yard scoring run in the third quarter after Taisun Phommachanh replaced Lawrence.
After having all three of its field-goal attempts blocked in last week’s win over then-No. 7 Miami, Clemson fixed the problem on B.T. Potter’s 30-yard field goal in the first quarter.
Clemson returns home to play Syracuse on Saturday.
Georgia Tech plays at Boston College on Saturday.