One of the most challenging weeks of Dexter Lawrence’s career ended with the 350-pound defensive tackle being unable to wipe the smile off of his face.
Lawrence didn’t play in Clemson’s 30-3 Cotton Bowl victory against Notre Dame Saturday evening after he was suspended for testing positive for ostarine leading up to the College Football Playoff, but he was still able to join in on the celebration as the Tigers clinched a spot in the national title game for the third time in four years.
The junior spent much of Saturday’s game encouraging his teammates from the sideline, while his fellow defensive linemen supported him on the field.
Fellow defensive tackle Christian Wilkins had No. 90 on his eye black, and defensive end Clelin Ferrell wore a shirt underneath his jersey that read ‘This for Big Dex.’
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After the game Lawrence, Wilkins, Ferrell and the rest of Clemson’s defensive line gathered on the field and sang, ‘we going to the ‘ship’ as the Tigers celebrated their College Football Playoff victory.
“Dex is our brother. Blood couldn’t make us any closer. Just grinding with him and working with him every day has been special,” Wilkins said. “I tried to teach a lot to Dex over my three years with him. He doesn’t even know but he taught me so much. We’ve just got a lot of love and respect for him. I wore 90 on my face just as a little reminder. He’s not out on the field with us but he’s out on the field with us.”
Clemson’s defensive line played a critical role in the Tigers dominating Notre Dame.
Austin Bryant, who was named the Cotton Bowl MVP, had three tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.
Ferrell added a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, while reserve Justin Foster added 1.5 tackles for loss with sack. Clemson had eight total tackles for loss and six sacks and held the Irish to only 248 total yards.
Bryant said Lawrence helped to inspire the performance.
“I think everybody knows how close we are as a d-line, not the four starters but all of us. To not have him be able to play was tough for him and it was tough for us. Of course we know that he’s a phenomenal player, but he’s also a personality that you can’t replace on the defense,” Bryant said. “Not having him out there was tough, but we knew we had to rally around him and play for him because he didn’t get the opportunity to play tonight. He’s put all the work in that we have and a big reason why we’re here at this point. We definitely want to make sure that we gave all we had for him.”