Deshaun Watson started the second half against N.C. State with a play he would like to forget. In the end, he helped send Clemson to a win he won’t forget.
After throwing a game-tying pick-six on his first pass of the third quarter, Watson threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Artavis Scott in overtime that helped propel third-ranked Clemson to a 24-17 win over N.C. State on Saturday in Death Valley.
The Wolfpack looked like they would walk away with an upset victory when kicker Kyle Bambard lined up for a 33-yard field goal attempt with the game tied and two seconds left on the clock in regulation.
But his kick went wide right, and Clemson had new life.
Clemson possessed the ball first in overtime. Watson conducted an eight-play, 25-yard drive that ended with his 10-yard touchdown pass to Scott, which gave the Tigers a 24-17 lead.
Then, Clemson cornerback Marcus Edmond sealed the win with an interception of N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley on his first pass of the extra period.
“We all just keep fighting and keep pushing,” Watson said. “We all understand that the game is not over until the final whistle, so we all just kept fighting and came out with the W.”
Watson completed 39 of 52 passes for two touchdowns and a season-high 378 yards. He also ran for a score.
His only real blemish of the afternoon occurred on the first play of the third quarter, when N.C. State cornerback Mike Stevens came up with an interception and returned it for a touchdown to tie the score at 10-10.
It was the first pick-six of Watson’s career.
“He just made a great play,” Watson said. “I saw him, but he just jumped up.”
The Heisman Trophy candidate bounced back, however, completing 21 of 26 passes after the interception.
Watson went 4-of-4 passing for 31 yards during the overtime drive, including the touchdown to Scott on a skinny post route.
The completion marked Watson’s 39th of the game, breaking Cullen Harper’s single-game record for completions at Clemson.
“We just executed the play,” Watson said of his connection with Scott. “He did a good job of stemming the safety and catching the ball. Big-time players make big-time plays in big moments, and that’s what he did.”
Overall, Watson was outstanding.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said that Watson — who completed 14 consecutive passes at one point — was in rhythm from the beginning.
“A lot of heart by him,” Swinney said of Watson. “I thought he had a great rhythm all day.”
In addition to his two passing touchdowns, Watson rushed for a 4-yard touchdown late in the third quarter to give Clemson a 17-10 lead.
Saturday was Watson’s 12th career game with at least one rushing touchdown and one passing touchdown.
“I just do whatever I have to do to get in the end zone, and I did my part and just kind of got in,” Watson said of the run. “So, thanks to my linemen and tight end for getting the blocking, and I just had to do my part on the linebacker.”
With the win, Watson upped his record as a starting quarterback to 25-2. He joined Rodney Williams (32), Tajh Boyd (32) and Charlie Whitehurst (25) as the only 25-game winners in Clemson history.
And this win is one Watson won’t forget.
“This is moments and memories that’s going to last for a lifetime,” Watson said. “Moments like this is why we play college football. That’s why people watch it, and everyone got their money’s worth. It was a great time, and we enjoyed it.”
—Photo Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports