It’s said that the most popular player on any team is the backup quarterback.
Well, that was certainly true on September 29, 2018, when the unlikeliest of heroes emerged and turned the tide against Syracuse in Death Valley. That unlikely hero was Chase Brice.
Very early in the contest on that hot day in the Valley, freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence, in his first career start, went down after hard hit by a Syracuse defender. Collectively, all in the stadium, and watching on television, gasped. Enter the next man up, Brice.
To completely understand the situation Clemson found itself in, one must go back to Monday of that week. There had been a quarterback controversy brewing between Lawrence and incumbent Kelly Bryant.
After the fourth game of the season, Dabo Swinney announced the starter for the Syracuse game was the freshman, Lawrence.
After hearing the news, Bryant abruptly left the team. If I remember correctly, he notified the coaches of his departure via a text message. Needless to say, it was one heck of a week.
On that day, life became clearer for Lawrence and much clearer for the new back-up, Brice. All knew everything was going to be just fine, “Trevor and Dabo had things under control.” However, there are some things completely uncontrollable. Yes, even for Swinney.
Then, in an instant, there lay Lawrence curled-up on the sideline along with what many instantly assumed were Clemson’s playoff hopes. The battle, most feared, was all but lost. Then, the next man up grabbed his helmet and hastily ran on the field to take his place, running the offense.
I’d like to say from the very first snap under center, things went flawlessly but that wouldn’t be entirely truthful. Honestly, It was just a tad bit ugly. The Tigers trailed Syracuse deep into the fourth quarter.
Facing a do or die 4th and 6, all rested on the shoulders and the arm of Brice. He dropped back calmly and delivered a bullet to Tee Higgins to get the first down. On the next play, Brice scrambled for 16 yards to set up a Travis Etienne game-winning touchdown. The Tigers came back and won 27-23.
Most athletes would give anything just to have the opportunity to be a hero. On that day, Brice showed them all, it can happen. The Tigers did indeed go to the playoff. Remarkably, on January 7, 2019, at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, Swinney and the unbeate, 15-0 Clemson Tigers were yet again, national champions.
While many others had a hand in the ultimate championship, it was Brice that delivered the victory on that day in September. For one shining moment, the backup quarterback, everybody’s favorite player, lived up to that distinction.
Brice would later enter the transfer portal and head to Duke. The next season he transferred again to App State, where he will play his final season in 2022. Today, he is a legend to most inside the fan base, all because of what transpired on that one fateful day..
Clemson and Notre Dame have released depth charts ahead of this weekend’s matchup at Death Valley.
For the second time this season, Clemson will be an underdog at home.
Despite Clemson’s astonishing loss to Miami, the Tigers will head to Raleigh next week favored over NC State.