‘This team was special from Day One,’ Dabo says
Clemson stunned the college football world Monday night as the Tigers put up 44 points in three quarters against Alabama and Nick Saban while winning their second national title in three years.
Clemson dominated the game in every facet as Trevor Lawrence and Justyn Ross proved to be an unstoppable combination against what is widely considered to be the top program in college football.
The scariest part about last night’s performance for the rest of the country? Lawrence and Ross are just freshmen and will play for the Tigers for at least the next two years before leaving for the NFL.
Lawrence passed for 347 yards and three touchdowns against the Crimson Tide, while Ross caught six passes for 153 yards and a score.
“Unlimited potential, incredible. It’s incredible,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday morning of his young stars. “Justyn, especially these last several games, his confidence, his development, he is easily one of the most technically advanced players I’ve ever coached at that position. ... His understanding and knowledge of route running, his technique at his break points, his ability to influence and manipulate the defender, and then he’s just got freaky ball skills. I mean, it’s unbelievable those catches he made last night.”
Ross took over both the national championship game against Alabama and the Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame for a quarter at a time and allowed the Tigers to take complete control of both blowout victories.
He had four catches for 129 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter Monday night, including a pair of one-handed circus catches as Clemson stretched out its two-score halftime lead to 28 points in the third quarter.
Ross had five catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns in the second quarter of the Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame, turning a close game into a rout.
“He’s an amazing player,” Lawrence said. “Like coach Swinney was talking about, we’ve got a lot of guys that do stuff like that, but obviously he’s special. It was awesome.”
While Lawrence and Ross shined the brightest in the playoff, Clemson has plenty of other talent returning as well, including ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne. Starting receivers Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers will also be back in 2019 as Clemson goes for its fifth consecutive College Football Playoff berth and its third national title in four years.
Swinney is already looking ahead to the 2019 season, which will begin with a team meeting later this week.
“I can’t wait to have that meeting on Friday. It’s always a fun meeting for me to kind of reset the room, if you will, and kind of paint a picture of what this new journey is going to look like and what we’ve got to do,” Swinney said. “We’re going to be a very experienced offense. We’ll have four seniors in that offensive line. We only lost two guys. We’re going to be experienced at running back, experienced at quarterback with Trevor and Chase, experienced at receiver. I think we’ve got a chance to be dynamic at tight end. So I’m excited about that.”