By Will Vandervort.
After the week he had, Cole Stoudt needed to have a little fun, and that’s what he had in Clemson’s 28-0 victory over Georgia State Saturday in Death Valley.
Though his statistics were not off the chart, the Clemson quarterback said he was having fun on Frank Howard Field with his teammates and was enjoying the afternoon being the Tigers’ starting quarterback.
“I was just out there having fun with all my guys, especially with it being senior night,” he said. “I was just kind of having fun. I was letting it loose.”
He did let it loose, despite what the stats say. Stoudt completed 19 of 29 throws for just 132 yards, including an eight-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Williams.
Those numbers could have been better, of course. But Williams and Germone Hopper both dropped long passes, Hopper’s could have went for a touchdown and Charone Peake did not run the proper route on the first quarter interception that stymied a potential scoring drive.
Actually, Clemson’s coaches charged Peake with the interception saying that he not only ran a bad route, but he mistimed the jump and tipped the ball into the air where safety Chandon Sullivan picked it off for Georgia State.
“A pass tipped is a pass intercepted,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.
But unlike last week, when he was unable to find himself against Georgia Tech after throwing an early interception, Stoudt was able to bounce back. He led the Tigers on four scoring drives after the interception, including a nice two-minute drive just before halftime that concluded with his touchdown pass to Williams.
“The whole week I have been trying to get my rhythm down and hooking up with the receivers and Mike and I hooked up on a bunch of plays today, especially on the touchdown pass. That was huge,” Stoudt said. “I had a lot of confidence in that throw. I just ripped it and knew where I was going to go before the ball was even snapped.”
Now as he gets ready for next week’s battle with archrival South Carolina not knowing if he will be the starter or if Deshaun Watson will be back in the lineup or not, Stoudt says he will prepare like every week to be the starter.
Despite the rollercoaster season he has had, he can’t afford to think about the Carolina game as a bench mark for his career.
“Beating Carolina, that will always be a good thing,” he said. “But it is just something where we have to prepare like it is just another game like we do any game. A lot of people think we have to prepare a little bit harder.
“All we have to do is go in and do the simple things and just be us and have some fun out there.”
In other words, just play the way Stoudt did on Saturday. Play to have fun, nothing more.
“He prepared and he played really well,” Swinney said. “The touchdown throw to Mike Williams was a bullet. He played solid and made good decisions. He made some plays in the run game where he got us into some good plays and he got us into some layups, if you will, just on his own.
“He was very engaged in the game plan and he was ready to go. There is no question it was a much better performance and it was something he can take some confidence from.”