Clemson Football

Moxie

October 1, 2018
4,057

When it’s all said and done, most people will probably remember where they were the day Trevor Lawrence made his first career start under center as a Tiger.

But more people will remember where they were when it was fourth-and-6.

We spent all of last week attempting to put ourselves in the shoes of people inside Clemson’s program. We tried to empathize with how Kelly Bryant felt when he was told he was going to be Clemson’s backup quarterback for the week.

We tried to step into the shoes of head coach Dabo Swinney handling the dramatic week as a whole - a week that could easily distract destruct any other team out there. And even Trevor Lawrence, who did nothing except play the best football he could. We could only imagine what he was feeling as Bryant decided not to show up to practice on Tuesday and all of a sudden, he became The Guy to lead Clemson's offense.

But we didn’t think much of Chase Brice.

At Swinney’s Wednesday practice update, players began filing out of the practice field as we waited to hear the head coach answer more questions about Bryant’s departure. Brice and Lawrence, the only two quarterbacks left on the roster with a scholarship, walked out by themselves.

It felt eerie. Lonely.

A quarterback room that was filled with so much talent in January had seen four transfers since then.

So imagine for a moment what it was like for Brice to suddenly be the backup quarterback after talks of Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence battling back and forth swept the entire offseason.

Imagine the sudden mentality Brice had to have knowing he’s one play away from being the man who would have to perform in front of a fan base with national-championship-or-bust expectations. We’re not sure if that ever crossed his mind.

But in an instance, Brice didn’t have time to think anymore.

Clemson’s worst fear of the week became a reality in the second quarter Saturday when Lawrence got knocked out of the game in his first start. Last year’s 27-24 Friday the 13th nightmare loss at Syracuse felt like a daydream compared to the events that transpired in Death Valley.

Nothing was going right for the No. 3-ranked Tigers. The offense couldn’t get out of its own way, the usual sure-handed Amari Rodgers was struggling to catch punts, and Brent Venables’ defense was hanging on by its fingertips.

There was a collective feeling of high anxiety that filled the Upstate that afternoon. Tensions only grew higher and higher with the passing of each play. Some fans - albeit, a few - even began to wonder out loud if Swinney would send Bryant a text at halftime in hopes of a heroic return.

But Brice was ready for his moment.

“I was thrown into a situation where we needed to produce, and I was prepared for it,” Brice said. “I just wanted to step up and be there for the team.”

“I was thrown into a situation where we needed to produce, and I was prepared for it,” Brice said. “I just wanted to step up and be there for the team.”

The redshirt freshman gunslinger was a tad shaky at first when he stepped up to the plate. A thrown interception when Clemson was already down 16-7 in the third quarter didn’t help matters at all.

But everything changed for Brice when he found ol’ reliable Hunter Renfrow on third-and-8 for a gain of 28 yards. Of all the catches that Renfrow has made in his career thus far, and he’s made a few big ones, that one was probably the toughest given how he contorted his body to make the grab.

Brice’s confidence rose from that play on, and he got better as the game progressed. The only problem was undefeated, confident Syracuse had plenty of momentum with its fearless starting quarterback Eric Dungey leading a touchdown drive to make it a 2-possession game with 13 minutes left.

With the way Clemson’s offense had been playing to that point, many thought that 10-point lead would be too much for the backup quarterback to overcome. Clemson’s season seemed like it was about to take a dramatic turn. At home. To the same team it lost to a year ago.

We must ask: What team out there wins a game on Saturday with its third-string quarterback going into Tuesday?

What team overcomes a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter with that same player?

The amount of mental toughness and flat-out willpower it takes for a team to pull out a win in that type of game can’t be understated. The Tigers had so many chances to fold with Brice managing the game, but when plays needed to be made at the right time, nobody panicked. Nobody quit.

So Clemson knew what it had to do: keep it “old school.” Clemson utilized its rushing attack and went up-tempo late in the game to wear down the Syracuse front. There was not much stopping of Tavien Feaster or Travis Etienne in the fourth quarter.

Clemson Sports Talk

After two consecutive completions to Justyn Ross for 16 yards, then 15, Brice handed the ball to Etienne who did the rest. A 17-yard rush, followed by a 26-yard explosive run put Clemson within three points all of a sudden.

The defense stood tall and forced two consecutive stops to get the ball back in Brice’s hand on his own 6-yard line for one last drive.

The plan was clear as day. Clemson was going to keep the ball on the ground and gash away at Syracuse’s tired defense. The drive began with seven rushes between the trio of running backs Clemson possesses. And on fourth-and-1, Clemson kept it on the ground and Etienne easily picked up the first down.

But a false start on Jordan Williams moved the ball back five yards. On fourth-and-6, Clemson’s last line of defense at quarterback, who had only eight career passing attempts entering the game, was going to have to make a throw.

Brice calmly stepped up in the pocket, looked off a defender, and fired a rope to Tee Higgins for a 20-yard gain. The play was executed to perfection.

“I’ll always remember, as long as Chase is here, fourth-and-6 with the game on the line,” Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “To be able to stand in there with a window that was about three feet wide, and just thread the needle right there to Tee Higgins...or we don’t win the game."

The game? With what Clemson has left on its schedule, that play felt like it was for the season.

On Wednesday as Swinney fielded questions about Bryant and his quarterback situation, the head coach was asked what he liked about Chase Brice when he recruited him.

“Moxie,” Swinney said.

“He’s a winner. Watching the tape, he’s a little Brett Favre-ish. Not comparing him tio Favre, but he’s a little unorthodox at times. He’s just got this moxie to him, man. He just finds a way.”
- Dabo Swinney

“He’s a winner. Watching the tape, he’s a little Brett Favre-ish. Not comparing him to Favre, but he’s a little unorthodox at times. He’s just got this moxie to him, man. He just finds a way.”

The word “moxie” means to have energy, courage, determination. We’d say Swinney’s assessment was spot-on once Brice tucked the ball and ran off the read option for 17 yards after his fourth-down conversion. He didn’t elect to slide but fought for as many yards as he could with the adrenaline rushing through his body.

From there, Etienne and Feaster finished off what was the game-winning drive by pounding the rock between the tackles. Etienne finished with 203 yards on 27 carries, both career highs, and three touchdowns.

The drive was 13 plays, 94 yards, and lasted more than five minutes. Brice had done what most thought was improbable down ten in the fourth quarter.

“When I went in, everyone just rallied around me,” Brice said. “It’s amazing what you can do when people come up to you and say they believe in you.”

There have only been three quarterbacks who have lead a double-digit comeback in the fourth quarter since Swinney became head coach. Tajh Boyd did it in 2012 against LSU in the Chick-Fil-A bowl. Deshaun Watson did it in the 2017 national championship game. Now Brice can add his name to that list.

But Swinney’s comparison of Chase Brice to Brett Favre is all more interesting days after Clemson’s miraculous win.

The Hall of Fame quarterback ranks third all-time in most game-winning drives in the NFL with 43. Brice now has one under his belt.

But what’s intriguing was Favre’s first career game-winning drive came in his professional debut. In September 1992, Favre took over as Green Bay Packers quarterback for an injured Don Majkowski. Imagine that.

The Packers were down six points against the Cincinnati Bengals with just over one minute remaining. Favre got the ball in his hands inside his own 10-yard line, just as Brice did on Saturday, and orchestrated a drive with perfect execution. He finished it off with a 35-yard touchdown throw with 14 seconds left.

Favre showed that same type of moxie then as Brice did on Saturday.

We don’t know how much Brice will play for Clemson as we move forward or if he'll have a Hall-of-Fame career. But the redshirt freshman quarterback who committed to Clemson the day after Trevor Lawrence has become a legitimate part of Clemson’s season by sticking around.

Regardless of what happens for the rest of the season, nobody will ever be able to take away that moment from Brice. That fourth-and-6 throw, with the game on the line, is a play he’ll never forget.

And with hopes of a fourth consecutive College Football Playoff still very much intact, Clemson fans won’t forget that moment any time soon, either. Especially if a national championship is the outcome.

Discussion from...

Moxie

3,847 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 1 yr ago by 09Tiger
Barnyard Bird
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I was very impressed with his poise. That speaks volumes about the preparation and who he is as a young man.
09Tiger
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No doubt. The kid has Swagger.
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