"I didn't even do all of it. The offensive linemen opened up holes. The only thing I did was run through them," he said. "I had some key blocks and took what was there. That's it. It all pays off to the people up front."
McDowell's performance turned plenty of heads as he racked up 127 yards rushing on 12 carries and further cemented his role as Clemson's third running back.
Head coach Dabo Swinney admitted that he's been pleasantly surprised by the emergence of No. 25.
"He was very average in the spring," Swinney said. "We challenged him and he's responded. He's a good football player."
Quarterback Kyle Parker said McDowell is running with more toughness than he was earlier this spring.
A strong work ethic has also started to pay its dividends.
"Those are two attributes that you have to have if you're a running back. He came in there and ran hard. Even when he took some hits, he bounced back up and kept running," Parker said.
McDowell was the first member of Swinney's ‘Dandy Dozen' 2009 recruiting class. Scout.com rated him with three stars as the No. 48 running back in the nation.
Even though he's still just a redshirt freshman, McDowell doesn't feel like one.
"Even though I'm a freshman on the field, I see myself as a veteran," he said. "All I'm doing is getting better and following those big boys up front."
Persistence has also gone a long way. McDowell's already developed the reputation for a hard tackle.
"As a running back, you should never want to go down," he said. "You should always want to make homeruns, big plays. That's what I was always taught growing up—to make big plays."
And now it looks like McDowell's ready to take his next step: make big plays when they count.
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