Deshaun Watson said before arriving at Clemson he planned on going undefeated against South Carolina. Even a torn ACL as a freshman couldn’t keep him from getting off to a 1-0 start.
Watson became an instant legend for the Tigers when he helped end USC’s five-game winning streak in the rivalry by leading Clemson to a 35-17 victory against the Gamecocks with a torn-up knee in 2014.
He made big plays in Clemson’s 37-32 victory last year, and is hoping to improve to 3-0 against South Carolina this weekend.
“Forget the records, forget the stats and all of that stuff. This is one of the games that you just want to win and have the bragging rights for 365 days and be able to prove that you were the better team,” Watson said Monday.
“It’s one of those things where you can look back in 10 years and be proud of yourself. Just being able to play my freshman year on a torn ACL and flip (the rivalry) and continue it last year, I’m just going to try to make it 3-0 this week.”
Running back Wayne Gallman said Watson’s performance against USC while injured as a freshman was extraordinary.
Watson completed 14 of 19 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns and added two rushing touchdowns.
“I don’t know how you do that,” Gallman said. “I know they taped it up a whole lot with the brace, but that just shows his heart and his competitiveness. He was tired of the trash talk and so was everyone else. He didn’t want to sit out.”
The junior added that it was hard to tell Watson wasn’t healthy. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney didn’t announce his quarterback had a torn ACL until after the game.
Gallman said Watson’s play that day, “ranks probably No. 1” in terms of impressive performances he has seen by Watson.
“I really couldn’t tell that he was hurting on it except when he maybe fell wrong,” Gallman said. “I don’t know if it was an adrenaline rush or shot.”
Co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said he felt the Tigers had something special in Watson before that game, but by the end of the day he was positive.
“This is really where he started his legend, when he came back his freshman year after the injury and put on a display here in the Valley to really end the streak,” Elliott said.
Clemson enters Saturday’s game favored by more than three touchdowns.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” Watson said. “It’s not going to be one of those games where we walk in and blow the doors off of them. Those guys are going to have pride in what they do and prepare very well,” he said. “It’s going to be a hard-nosed, physical game. We’ve got to play Clemson ball.”
Who: USC (6-5) vs. Clemson (10-1)
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson
Line: Clemson by 24