TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — With three minutes and twenty-three seconds to play, and 75 yards of green grass standing between victory and defeat, No. 3 Clemson trailed No. 14 Florida State by five points following Dalvin Cooks’ eight-yard touchdown.
The Tigers needed a touchdown to keep its national championship aspirations alive, and there was no better person to help accomplish that than Deshaun Watson. At least that is the way co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott sees it.
And why not?
Watson needed just five plays and a minute and 17 seconds to navigate Clemson the necessary 75 yards for the victory. He capped it with a 34-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Leggett, who dove the final four yards for the winning score.
“I feel blessed to have the best quarterback in the country. Obviously, the media and other people are going to say certain things. But I believe he is the best player in the country and he has unbelievable poise and unbelievable knowledge,” Elliott said.
Elliott admits Watson is not perfect, and knows he is harder on himself than anyone else, but it is Watson uncanny ability to shake things off is what separates him from others quarterbacks.
Watson did not play his best game in Clemson’s 37-34 victory at Doak Campbell Stadium, but he made the plays when the Tigers needed him to the most. After throwing two interceptions that led to 14 Florida State points, Watson came onto the field on that final drive and acted as if none of it had happened.
“He is not perfect. He is going to make a mistake or two …He just keeps on fighting. When you have him out there, it just allows me to stay calm and allows me to stay with the game and not abandoned the game plan,” Elliott said.
Watson opened the drive with a 25-yard strike to Leggett, and then found him a few plays later on third down-and-five before the two connected on the winning touchdown pass on the next play.
“He handles adversity better than most other people,” Leggett said. “He just goes out there and moves on to the next play. He just brings a whole different kind of confidence to the offense and helps us play easier, play with calmness. We can just chill and relax and go out there and play.
“It was stressful (being down), but we knew we were going to win no matter what.”
Watson finished the game completing 23 of 47 passes for 378 yards. Besides the touchdown to Leggett, he also threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow in the first quarter.
“Look he is going to be his own worst critic and he is going to focus on the two interceptions. He threw for over 370 yards and he ran for 52 yards. He managed the system well,” Elliott said. “Obviously, he got sacked four times and that is something we have to get cleaned up, but I thought he played well and he has a heart of a champion. The thing I love about Deshaun is that he does not crumble. He does not break when he has a mistake. He understands he is down on himself a little bit, but he keeps on playing and he keeps on swinging and that is why you see good things happen for him.”
Those reasons are why Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams is glad Watson is his quarterback, even when he isn’t having his best game.
“He has a next-play mentality. He had that mentality and he just made plays after that. You just have to put those plays behind you. You can’t do anything with what has already happened so you can only do what is in front and that is what he did,” Williams said.