How Dabo is using Deshaun Watson’s 2016 season to help Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence

When Trevor Lawrence tossed his second interception of the first quarter directly to Louisville defensive back Russ Yeast, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney delivered a stern but encouraging message when his star quarterback arrived to the sideline.

“Just dumb. I want to know, “What are you thinking?’” Swinney asked Lawrence. He wasn’t happy with the explanation he received.

“‘Well that’s stupid. No. That is like the worst football ever... All right, well let’s go to the next play.”

The next play Saturday afternoon at Cardinals Stadium was a completion, as were all nine of Lawrence’s attempts in the second quarter. After going 3-for-7 for 9 yards, with two interceptions in the first quarter, Lawrence was 9-for-9 for 156 yards and two touchdowns in the second as Clemson built a 17-3 halftime lead.

“You just keep swinging,” Swinney said. “I heard Kobe Bryant say one time, ‘I’ll go 0-for-30 before I go 0-for-12. Like ‘I’m making the next one.’ Just the mindset. And Trevor has that.”

With Lawrence’s two interceptions on Saturday, he now leads the ACC in picks with eight on the year. The sophomore threw four interceptions in 15 games in all of 2018 but has struggled to be consistent through the first seven games of this season.

“Just bad,” Lawrence said. “I think I just made two bad decisions and gotta play smarter than that, especially on the first one earlier in the red zone. I’ve gotta do better than that.”

To his credit, Lawrence has not shied away from criticism.

When asked following Saturday’s 45-10 victory if there are unfair expectations placed upon him after his record-breaking season as a freshman last year, Lawrence refused to use the standard he is held to as an excuse.

“I definitely do think I can play better. It’s not just that people expect me to play perfect. It’s not really that,” Lawrence said. “I do need to make some better plays and just being a little smarter, taking care of the ball.”

No matter how bad a mistake Lawrence makes, he always seems to bounce back.

He finished Saturday’s game 20 of 29 for 233 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions, putting behind his early miscues to lead Clemson to its 22nd consecutive victory.

The fact that Lawrence leads the ACC in interceptions is not concerning to Swinney.

The last time Clemson had a quarterback lead the ACC in interceptions was in 2016 when Deshaun Watson threw six more picks than any other QB in the league. The Tigers won the national title that season.

“People forget Deshaun Watson threw 17 interceptions his junior year and 13 the year before that,” Swinney said. “Deshaun made some bad plays too, but how did he respond? He always was going to go make the next play. And that’s how Trevor is. He’s the exact same. He doesn’t go in a shell. He doesn’t pout. He just responds.”

The confidence Swinney has in Lawrence is not lost on his star quarterback, who entered the year as the Heisman favorite but is now out of the conversation.

“You see the player Deshaun is and was, I mean he made mistakes too, just like anyone else,” Lawrence said. “He’s been telling me that a few times just to kind of let me know everything’s good. You’re gonna have bad plays. You’re gonna throw some interceptions. But I think it’s just part of growing and getting better.”


Who: Boston College (4-3, 2-2) at No. 3 Clemson (7-0, 5-0)

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Memorial Stadium

TV: ACC Network

Matt Connolly is the Clemson beat writer and covers recruiting and college sports for The State newspaper and The