Monday Morning Quarterback
There is no sugar coating it. Kelly Bryant’s performance in Saturday’s win over NC State was his worst of the season. His head coach even said so.
However, Bryant did not let that affect the outcome. Instead, he did not panic. He stayed positive and he kept moving on to the next play until he finally found his rhythm.
“That was probably Kelly’s worst game he has played all year, yet he was still able to lead his team to a win,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Sunday night during his weekly teleconference with the media. “I think that is a sign of growth and maturity with Kelly. He does not have to play perfect to win.”
Bryant played downright awful in the first quarter. He missed on his first five passes, including an interception on his second attempt which led to NC State’s first touchdown of the game.
He finished the quarter 2-for-8 for 17 yards, and the two completions were not even on target. Hunter Renfrow climbed the latter to snag the first one for a 10-yard gain on third down to keep the drive going, while Deon Cain made a diving catch and kept both feet inbounds for a seven yard gain.
But like a good shooter in basketball, Bryant stayed with it. He did not allow the bad start to affect his confidence.
“It’s just about playing,” he said. “I missed some throws and some opportunities to extend some drives. It was tough because you know I feel like it was on me. Everybody was doing their part. I just knew I had to keep playing and respond.”
Bryant responded with a 15-yard strike on third-and-four from the Wolfpack 42 to open up the second quarter. It was a good read and even better pass by Bryant, which really allowed him to settle into the game.
“It was going to be a four-quarter game. I tried not to hang on to the throws that I missed,” Bryant said. “It was just move on to the next play.”
Knowing Renfrow has been Bryant’s security blanket on third down all year, NC State doubled the sure-handed receiver. Bryant immediately recognized the double team and went to his second read where he saw Cain breaking open above Renfrow in a small area of the zone. He threw a perfect pass to Cain who hauled it in for 15 yards and a first down at the NC State 27.
A few plays later, after Cain drew a pass interference penalty, Bryant carried the football into the end zone from 10 yards out to tie the game at 14 with 14:04 to play in the second quarter.
“It was the drive that got me going,” Bryant said. “The interception was just a bad decision on my part. I made it kind of tough for our defense as well because they went on to score. It was a poor decision. I should have just thrown it away. But after that, I calmed down. I got the jitters out of me and went and played ball and had fun with it.”
After his slow start, Bryant went on to complete 18 of his final 30 passes for 174 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to Cain in the third quarter which gave the Tigers their first lead of the game, a lead they never relinquished.
The junior quarterback also ran the football well, rushing for 88 yards on a team-high 20 carries.
“I was really impressed with him because he really, like I said, if I had to rank the games, this would be his worst performance. I’m just proud of him,” Swinney said.