CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson starter Trevor Lawrence left the Tigers' 27-23 victory over Syracuse late in the second quarter Saturday with concussion-like symptoms, but coach Dabo Swinney seemed hopeful after the game that his quarterback would be back quickly.
"He had a headache, and, we've got a whole medical team that handles all that stuff, and they've got questions and tests and all that," Swinney said. "If you talked to him after the game, you'd think he was great. He was trying to come back in the game, but they shut him down. So he'll be in our protocol, but he was really good after the game. He was celebrating with his teammates and all that stuff. So hopefully he'll bounce back and be OK."
Lawrence, a true freshman making his first career start, was running along the sideline when Syracuse defensive back Evan Foster hit him. Lawrence stayed down for several minutes before walking off under his own power. He was eventually taken into the locker room and didn't return.
The injury to Lawrence nearly became a nightmare scenario for the No. 3 Tigers. Earlier in the week, after Swinney announced Lawrence would be his starter, veteran Kelly Bryant said he would transfer. Bryant started the first four games of the season and led the Tigers to the College Football Playoff semifinals a year ago.
Because he played in only four games, Bryant is able to take this season as a redshirt and transfer to another school with immediate eligibility for 2019.
Swinney told ESPN's Holly Rowe following Lawrence's injury that he'd welcome Bryant back if the senior decides to return to the program. But in his postgame news conference, Swinney refused to address Bryant's future, adding he had no idea whether he was still enrolled in school.
"Not talking about anything about Kelly," Swinney said. "I'm just gonna talk about our team. I've addressed everything I'm gonna address on Kelly. Wish him all the best, and -- we're moving on."
With Bryant gone and Lawrence injured, Clemson was forced to turn to redshirt freshman Chase Brice, who entered the game having thrown just eight career passes. He finished 7-of-13 for 83 yards with an interception, while Lawrence went 10-for-15 for 93 yards and no scores.
Brice grew more comfortable as the game went on, and helped lead the 94-yard, game-winning drive thanks to a clutch fourth-and-6 completion to Tee Higgins. Coaches knew they couldn't put the game in Brice's hands completely, so they turned to the run game to grind out the comeback win for Clemson (5-0, 2-0 ACC).
Travis Etienne had a career-high 203 yards rushing and three touchdowns, including the winner with 41 seconds remaining.
Afterward, coaches and players discussed how emotional the week had been after learning Bryant decided to leave the team.
"I hate it, just big picture," defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. "I believe in just fighting and stick to it, and it's just me. It's easy to say. I'm not sitting here trying to judge. He had such an incredible legacy here, and his leadership, his toughness, his accomplishments. ... You have the guy that gets his chance, no big deal, I just keep fighting and control what I can control. My teammates are here, this is my team, because that's how we all looked at him. I probably said too much. But as a member of this team, as a coach, I've always and I still do hold Kelly in a very high regard, because I know the pressure that goes with that's different than the pressure there is on that middle linebacker. I know that. I just don't think for opportunities down the road that you had to go look somewhere else. I think you can have those same opportunities right here. That's me."
Swinney also sounded like the team had moved on from Bryant.
"It was disappointing Trevor got hurt, but all things work together for the good," Swinney said. "What you saw is you saw Chase grow up. I said coming in the season we had three quarterbacks I thought we could win the league with. We've got two and you saw that today. Chase proved he can go in there and be a heck of a player for us. In the long run, this will be a defining moment for this football team."