When Mike Stevens stepped in front of Deshaun Watson’s pass to Deon Cain on the first play of the third quarter and return it 28 yards for a touchdown, the whispers came down across Death Valley, “What is wrong with Deshaun Watson this year?”
The answer is nothing.
“He did not see the guy. They ran a trap-coverage over there, something a little bit different than your normal play. He just did not see him. He was throwing to Deon, the guy was sitting right there and the guy made a nice play,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said.
Stevens’ interception was the eighth one the Clemson quarterback has thrown this season, and though his coaches would love to see him throw fewer, the reality is Watson is pretty much right where he was this time last year.
Actually, the Clemson quarterback is on pace to have an even better season—from a passing standpoint—than he had last season. Through the first seven games in 2015, Watson completed 131-of-189 passes for 1,153 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
This season, Watson has completed 164-of-258 passes for 1,950 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
The only area where one can say Watson has declined is with his accuracy, as it has dropped from 69.3 percent this time last year to 63.6 though seven games. However, Watson has thrown 69 more passes. Also, after a slow start, the junior has picked things up the last five weeks as he has completed 69 percent of his last 171 passes for 1,106 yards, 16 touchdowns and five interceptions.
“I definitely think Deshaun has some things he wants to work on. But, he has thrown some really nice balls, too,” Scott said. “Some of you take that for granted, some of the strikes that he throws. But that comes with the territory with a guy as talented as he is. He definitely has missed some throws that he can make and he knows he will make.”
From a total yards and total touchdowns standpoint, Watson is just under last year’s record pace of 5,209 yards, which averaged out to 347.2 yards per game. This year, he has 2,229 yards, which averages out to 318.4 yards per game.
With that said, Watson averaged 276.4 yards per game through first seven games last year. Meaning he is averaging 42 more total yards per game this year than last year at this time. Watson finished the last eight games in 2015 with 3,324 total yards, while totaling 28 touchdowns – that is a 415.9 yards and 3.5 touchdowns per game average.
So the question is can Watson turn it on again in the second half of the season like he did last year as the third-ranked Tigers made a run at the national championship.
“I think he, along with all of our guys, this is a really nice time for our open week. Seven weeks in, it is perfect. That is really what each position on this team is doing this week. Evaluating some of the positive things that we have done and some of the things we need to improve in as we get ready for the last half of the season,” Scott said. “It is no different than Mike Williams. He is a great wideout, but he has some plays that he can make so we don’t make a huge deal about one guy or anything like that.
“This is a big time for us this week to really focus on ourselves before we really get ready for Florida State, we have to find something to improve on as we get ready to make this run.”