Kelly Bryant passed his first test as fifth-ranked Clemson’s starting quarterback on Saturday with flying colors, totaling 313 yards of offense and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ 56-3 win over Kent State.
While Bryant’s performance provides him with a confidence boost as he settles into his new role at the helm of Clemson’s offense, he isn’t shying away from the fact that the season opener was merely a warmup for the true exams that lie ahead — starting with this Saturday’s primetime showdown against No. 12 Auburn in Death Valley.
“Bigger game, big stage,” Bryant said on Monday. “A lot of people are going to put eyes on us this game. In the Valley, under the lights.”
Bryant is preparing for the spotlight, and though he doesn’t know how the game will unfold, he knows a key for him personally as he tries to lead Clemson’s offense will be keeping his emotions in check.
“It’s just managing and controlling your emotions throughout the course of a game,” he said. “It’s not easy, but you have to do it.”
Fortunately for Bryant, he had a perfect example of a poised quarterback to learn from the last two seasons in Deshaun Watson.
Watson coolly came through for Clemson in big game after big game as he guided the Tigers to back-to-back national championship game appearances and the national title last season. The two-time Heisman finalist defeated nine ranked opponents in his two full seasons as Clemson’s starter and never seemed daunted by any challenge.
“He was very poised,” Bryant said. “Bad play, he just brushed it off. Next play mentality for him, whether it was a good play or bad play. He never got too high, never got too low. He played within the game.”
Bryant took a lot from Watson’s approach to games and his demeanor during them. Now, he’s hoping to replicate what he watched Watson do so well.
“Throughout the course of a game, it’s always a long game. It’s not just one play or a quarter or a half,” Bryant said. “It’s four quarters, so (Watson) put together four quarters throughout the whole season.
“That’s something that I’ve gotten to see these past two years. That’s something that I’ve instilled in my game, just not getting too high, not getting too low. Don’t ride the emotion of the game because a big game can be very emotional. So, you just have to stay poised when you’re out there.”
Bryant silenced some doubters with his outing against Kent State, though he is certainly aware there is plenty of people who still question his ability to get the job done.
He’s not worried about the outside noise, though, but instead relishing the opportunity he has and excited for another chance to show what he can do this weekend.
“It’s a blessing to run out there with the first team, take the snaps,” Bryant said. “I’m always looking forward to it. I look forward to it in practice, not just only the games, but every day, looking forward to being the guy.”