Deshaun Watson stood in the middle of the field and soaked it all in as the 81,542 fans in Death Valley gave the junior a standing ovation for not only his record-setting night in No. 4 Clemson’s 56-7 victory over rival South Carolina, but also for all the memories from the last three football seasons.
In perhaps his last game in Clemson Memorial Stadium, Watson tied his own school record of six touchdown passes, while throwing for 347 yards on 26-of-32 passing.
“It was special,” Watson said about the ovation he and the others Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney brought back onto the field with 6:49 to play. “There was a lot we put in and a lot the fans put in so it was good to think about the memories we made here inside Memorial Stadium, and Death Valley. I just stole that moment one last time.”
What Watson stole was South Carolina’s will, and he did it early and often. In the first quarter, Watson began his record day with touchdown passes of 34 and 19 yards to Mike Williams, and then an 11-yard scoring pass to Jordan Leggett. Before the Gamecocks picked up their initial first down, Clemson was on top 21-0 with 2:05 to play in the first quarter.
“We just executed the game plan,” Watson said. “The coaches did a great job of making the game plan super and easy … We just saw what the defense was going to run and we just found the open man.”
Most of the time Williams was the open man as he caught six catches for 100 yards and three touchdowns – all in the first half. Scott was also open for eight receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown. Leggett had three catches for 58 yards and a touchdown.
Watson said the Tigers were fueled by comments a few Gamecocks said to the media earlier in the week, saying beating Clemson is like beating your little brother.
“In our head it’s like the daddy beating the son. The daddy gave the son a whipping. We run this state. When you look at the long-time record, it speaks for itself,” Watson said.
When Watson came to Clemson he promised he would never lose to the Gamecocks. He kept his word and he did it with style.
In his three games against the Gamecocks (6-6), Watson has completed 60-of-78 passes (.769) for 895 yards and nine touchdowns to just one interception. The junior has also rushed for 146 yards and five touchdowns in those three games.
Combined Watson was responsible for 1,041 total yards and 14 touchdowns. But more importantly, he was 3-0, just the fourth quarterback in Clemson history to beat the Gamecocks three times in his career.
Watson said he never worried about having to live up to his word of never losing to South Carolina.
“I know who I am and I stay true to our word,” Watson said. “I prepare for moments like this and I know my teammates would do the same thing. None of that was on my mind. Each and every week, I just focus on winning the game. Losing never even crosses my mind.”
–Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports