Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson missed a block on a reverse during the third quarter of Saturday’s game at South Carolina, resulting in a five-yard loss. Tigers coach Dabo Swinney let his sophomore signal caller know he wasn’t happy.
“I took the opportunity to coach him pretty hard right there,” Swinney said. “You know, you get mad at the offensive linemen sometimes when they don’t protect for you, well let’s do your job too and make the block.”
Swinney really had to search to find a critique for his star quarterback after another stellar performance on the national stage.
The Heisman Trophy candidate was nearly flawless in Clemson’s 37-32 win over USC, accounting for 393 yards and four total touchdowns to help keep Clemson undefeated entering next week’s ACC Championship game.
“No. 4 was just the difference in the game. It’s just that simple,” Swinney said. “That’s what great players do. They make everybody better. He’s certainly a great player.”
Watson did damage with his arm and legs, rushing for 114 yards and three scores and completing 20 of 27 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown.
He seemed to make the big play every time Clemson needed it, especially on third down, whether it be throwing or running. The Tigers were 9-for-13 on third-down conversions, and Watson was the main reason why.
“He’s as good a player as I’ve ever been around. You just put the ball in his hands and he makes things happen,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “He’s really, really special, and I’m definitely glad he’s on our team.”
Watson’s best throw of the game came on perhaps the biggest play of the game. Early in the fourth quarter, Clemson’s 18-point lead was suddenly cut to 28-25. The Gamecocks had momentum and had Williams-Brice believing an upset of the top-ranked Tigers was possible.
Facing a third-and-7 from the USC 33, Watson found freshman receiver Trevion Thompson for a 24-yard gain, squeezing the pass between two defenders who had dropped into zone coverage. It was Thompson’s only catch.
“Man, what a throw. Are you kidding me?” Swinney said. “Right into a two-deep window with the corner sinking underneath it, he just threw a rope. But that’s Deshaun. That’s just what he does. … He doesn’t feel the pressure in crunch time because he’s prepared for that.”
Watson has led Clemson’s offense to more than 500 yards in eight straight games, despite losing his top receiver Mike Williams in the first quarter of the Tigers’ season opener.
Swinney doesn’t have a Heisman vote but if he did he knows who he would vote for.
“I think he’s the best player in the country,” he said. “I don’t know how people measure that. I look around and there are a lot of great players out there, but this kid, he’s special. He just doesn’t flinch. He just keeps grinding. He makes great decisions.”