Things weren’t going well for Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson in the first half of Saturday’s 30-24 victory over Troy.
Watson’s receivers were dropping passes and he was overthrowing others. The end result was two thrown interceptions by the end of the third quarter, just the fourth time in his 25 career games he has done such.
It was uncharacteristic of a quarterback who prides himself in taking care of the football. It was almost as if Watson was pressing somewhat or was trying to make a play to get his offense in rhythm.
“That’s just natural. When you are not connecting, everyone just tries a little bit harder,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “But if we do our job and catch the ball, everything is going to be a lot smoother. For whatever reason, we just were not on the same page today, and that will be a big focus for us this week.”
Watson and his receivers did not get on the page until the fourth quarter. That’s when he settled in and completed 7 of 10 passes for 68 of his 292 yards, including a touchdown pass to defensive lineman Christian Wilkins and a 23-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Deon Cain, who in the second quarter dropped a possible touchdown in the end zone.
“We put up over 400 yards. It was bad, but things are not going to be a beauty pageant. Things are not always going to be perfect,” Watson said. “Troy is a very good team so you have to give them credit with their scheme and their guys played hard.”
But Clemson helped out a lot. Watson’s receivers dropped seven passes, including two possible touchdowns. Watson himself threw two interceptions and overshot Mike Williams twice when Williams had beaten his man and was wide open for two more possible scores.
Watson finished the game 27 of 52 for 292 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
“I’m not going to say he was pressing early on. I think it was more that we were not making the routine plays and he was trying to put us on his back and compensate,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said.
Some wondered if playing so many young players early in the game affected Watson and the offense and kept it from getting in rhythm.
“I don’t know if that was affecting the rhythm as much as the playmakers just were not making the plays when their number was called. I don’t know how many drops, I counted seven, seven-plus drops in the game. You start making those plays and then the energy increases,” Elliott said. “Deshaun starts to feel good. He is finding a rhythm. He is playing fast and we are putting the defense on their heels as opposed to we are trying to find what is working. We are out of rhythm and now the defense has the upper hand to kind of rear back and play loose.
“Overall, we all feel disappointed with our performance because we did not play up to our standards.”
Excuses aside, Watson said he and the offense just have to play better. It’s that simple.
“We understand what is going on. We just have to get on the same page,” he said. “It was just a couple of plays of executing and exploding. Our time is going to come. We just have to keep working and putting it in God’s hands and see what happens.”
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